Farmers remain locked out of finance

Despite the prevalence of aid money pouring into the Pacific region, local farmers continue to have trouble accessing funding from donors, an international body for rural development has warned. 

Speaking on the sidelines of the Pacific Week of Agriculture in Apia on Tuesday Michael Haliu, the Director of the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation, said financing of all kinds was difficult for individual farm holders in the region. 

“The key or solution that farmers should consider is to organise in a group as opposed to individual farmers trying to access funding,” he said.

“As a group of farmers you can develop a big project that can help attain funding from donors.”

This week is bringing together leading regulators and representatives from 28 different member states to Apia. Tuesday's event was dedicated to exploring the possibility of building new regional alliances in agribusiness. 

Afamasaga Toleafoa, the Chair of Pacific Island Farmers Organisation Network (P.I.F.O.N.) and Chair of the Samoa Farmer’s Association, agreed that cooperation presented a potential solution for agricultural businesses struggling to access credit. 

“Farming is a business and it needs funding just like so many businesses. But I agree that local farmers should join farming associations in order to access funds through projects," he said. 

Mr. Toleafoa suggested that local farmers should go back to growing vegetables or crops grown in the past. 

“It is a concern when instead of eating breadfruit and taro our people are dependent on rice and bread which is making us very sick," he said. 

“The bigger issue here is raising the level of agricultural production not only just for food but in all the other crops It is not only good for food security which we need instead of dependent overseas for imported foods which are getting sick from and economically it is not good for our economy.”

He said greater domestic agricultural production would boost employment opportunities and economic growth:

“Not only for local production for consumption but also health aspects in terms of diet. It is better to export our products then import unhealthy products.

He spoke to the need for more assistance packages for the nation's farmers, particularly to access export markets. 

“Farming is not a rewarding profession because it is difficult [and] economically risky which a reality is.

“Some of the challenges faced by farmers in Samoa are the lack of accessibility to travel to their farms; the roads are not in good condition. Water is another issue because it is needed for vegetable gardens, during the dry season you need irrigation otherwise.

“Farming needs science in terms of advisory services, when farming you are dealing with nature and you are trying to bend nature a little bit to your will to increase production and that requires scientific knowledge and advice that comes from Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (M.A.F.).”

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