Using a regional conference to impact lives in the Pacific

The Malaefatu Park in Apia has been a hive of activity in recent days, go there and you get to see agricultural produce and fisheries products of all shapes and sizes. 

Today is the last day of the 2019 Agriculture and Fisheries Show, which opened on Wednesday and is part of the 2nd Biennial Pacific Week of Agriculture from September 30 to October 4. The regional conferences are being held in partnership with the Pacific Community (S.P.C.) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (F.A.O.).

A special session of the Heads of Agriculture and Forestry Services was at the Samoa Conference Center on Tuesday, with the program culminating today with the Ministers of Agriculture and Forestry Meeting. The discussions at the two conferences, workshops and side events revolve around the theme “Enhanced Partnerships for Sustainable Agriculture and Forestry Systems in the Pacific”.

Samoa’s Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Lopao'o Natanielu Mua, made an impassioned plea for farmers at the opening of the Heads of Agriculture and Forestry Services conference on Tuesday.

“The aim of your meeting is to strengthen and deepen partnerships for sustainable development in our Pacific Region. Therefore, I urge you to have the implementers and farmers in mind, when you are discussing the main objectives or expected favourable results and outcomes,” he said.

A day later the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for Natural Resources and Environment, Fiame Naomi Mataafa, joined other leaders at the Malaefatu Park while expressing optimism that the conferences this week will enable the sharing of information, expertise and knowledge between the participating island nations.

“In doing this, we have the opportunity to share information, expertise and knowledge on breakthrough efforts and research by various key participating stakeholders in side events held this week, as well as business enterprises in import substitution and exports," she said.

“When a country rates highly in possessing excellent food and nutrition security, then it is a country that is regarded as having a contented people, happy people and therefore regarded as a prosperous nation.”

We have every reason to believe that the conferences, workshops and side-events in Apia this week – the Pacific Week of Agriculture – would be an overwhelming success and no doubt add another feather to Samoa’s cap as the host of another successful regional event. 

And Minister Lopao'o would have contributed to that success by setting the scene for the week, when he made the appeal for farmers to be at the center of plans, which governments formulate for their agricultural sectors. As the host of the 2019 Pacific Week of Agriculture, it was important the Minister did that.

This morning the 2nd joint F.A.O. and S.P.C. Pacific Ministers of Agriculture and Forestry Meeting gets underway at the TATTE conference center. Following the special session of the Pacific Heads of Agriculture and Forestry Services on Tuesday and Wednesday this week, the Ministers will convene to discuss the recommendations that came out from that meeting amongst other issues.

Acknowledging the appeal early in the week by Minister Lopao'o for important stakeholders such as farmers to be considered when making decisions, we hope the policies that the Pacific Ministers of Agriculture and Forestry sign off today will translate to long-term tangible outcomes for our people. 

The outcomes of the two regional conferences held in Apia this week has never been more important than today, with the Pacific islands communities experiencing high population growth, increasing urbanisation, and shrinking income generation opportunities to support families, consequently triggering food security issues.

And with the spike in challenges posed by climate change on farmers and fishermen in the region, the sharing of information, expertise and knowledge – as expressed by the Deputy P.M. Fiame – is critical for the survival of our coastal and island communities in these uncertain times.

We note moves at the special session of the Pacific Heads of Agriculture and Forestry Services early in the week to agree to targets on “forest and landscape restoration”, in an attempt to contribute to global targets to slow down the impact of climate change. As Pacific custodians of some of the last tracts of tropical rainforests in the world, the onus is now on us to going one step further to making that a reality.

Hopefully conference delegates had the opportunity outside your hectic schedules to go sightseeing in this island paradise. Nevertheless safe onward journey back to your island homes and God bless.

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