Self-assessment meeting “so far, so good”

The agriculture sector’s deep dive into itself this week has been “so far, so good,” according to Leofo Luaiufi Aiono, who helped bring the International Fund for Agriculture Development’s (IFAD) project to Samoa.

IFAD has been facilitating a global development initiative called AVANTI (Advancing Knowledge for Agricultural Impact), with expert partners Helvetas and ITAD. 

They have been working with Leofo to run the three-day self-assessment workshop for the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and its stakeholders and partners, in order to help the Ministry develop results-based management tools.

Leofo said the way the workshop has been facilitated has empowered sector representatives to honestly share their opinions, and have healthy discussions.

“We didn’t know what to expect, we were kind of sceptical going into it but it’s been progressing so well, so far so good.”

“It’s hard to assess ones-self, to actually say this is where we are weak,” he said.

Having a variety of ministries that work on the agriculture sectors, as well as development partners like the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and World Food Program present made a big difference, Leofo added.

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“It was important that we got only ministry people but relevant stakeholders within the sector all sitting down to say we are here, we’re doing well here, and then the discussion starts rolling and we realise no, we need to take a step back and improve upon these issues.”

Sometimes being self-critical can lead to arguments, but the facilitation by Helvetas and ITAD’s consultants prevented that.

“Sometimes when you try to do that, people headlock and don’t progress. But through the setting we’ve had we have been able to agree to disagree,” Leofo said.

And, the workshop has already helped identify gaps and weaknesses in the sectors plans and management.

“We have a midterm review for the sector [coming up], so that fits into that whole exercise,” he said.

“This tool is actually helping us to identify gaps and the current situation, where we are at, at the moment, and possibly ways of moving or progressing forward.”

Representatives from Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development, Ministry of Finance, Samoa Bureau of Statistics and the Public Service Commission attended as well. 

Leofo said the other ministries expressed their interest in a similar sector plan workshop, to help develop their own areas.

“Something that is coming out of these discussions is that these tools could actually be tailor made to each sector.” 

“It was good to have them on board as well to come in and test this out and see that could work for them, it just needs to be tweaked a bit.”

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