Pacific pledge to harness agritourism for rural development

Pacific pledge to harness agritourism for rural development

By Stéphane Gambiera
July 15, 2015 7:32 P.M

Pacific Islands (TDN) An event aimed at promoting links between agriculture and other productive sectors in the Pacific islands has resolved to set up a regional initiative to drive plans for developing agribusiness and agritourism.

The Nadi Declaration, made at the close of the Agribusiness Forum: Linking the agrifood sector to the tourism-related markets, pledged to launch a Regional Agritourism Steering Group, whose first task is to draw up a Pacific Work Plan for agritourism by September 1, 2015.

The Forum, held in Fiji from July 1 to 3, was organised by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), together with the Pacific Private Sector Organisation (PIPSO) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC).

With participants who included small-scale producers, chefs, development experts and public and private sector officials, the Agribusiness Forum explored the potential of synergies between agriculture and the tourism industry to build sustainable economic growth and resilience in small island communities. The Forum was held as part of the Pacific Community Agritourism Week, which ran from June 29 June to July 3.

Tourism is currently experiencing strong growth in the Pacific, with revenues from this sector predicted to nearly double to US$4 billion (€3.58 billion) by 2019. But incomes from farming and fishing are declining and cheap food imports are soaring, with negative impacts on public health and local economies.

Seeking to address these challenges, and the opportunities posed by growing visitor numbers to the Pacific region, the Regional Agritourism Steering Group will be made up of members that include CTA, the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS), PIPSO, SPC, the South Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO), the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the University of the South Pacific (USP), as well as organisations in the Caribbean and Indian Ocean.

Experiences from these two regions, where significant progress has been made in some areas in developing agribusiness and agritourism to benefit rural communities, are considered a valuable source of information and learning for the Pacific region. Many of these African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) small island states share common features and constraints, including size, remote location, fragile economies and vulnerability to natural hazards.

“Agribusiness offers considerable potential for small island states in the Pacific region, as well as in other ACP regions, some of which have important lessons to share,” said CTA Director Michael Hailu. “Strong partnerships will be crucial to overcoming hurdles along the way, which include finding ways to provide value chain financing, an enabling policy environment and better access to knowledge and information for all players in the agribusiness and hospitality sector.”

The Nadi Declaration highlights the importance of strengthening Caribbean-Pacific visibility and collaboration. It recommends sharing plans for Caribbean and Pacific initiatives aimed at promoting agritourism, creating an online repository to document case studies, best practices and tools promoting agribusiness and tourism-related markets, and linking this to similar platforms in the Caribbean, Indian Ocean and beyond.

In an effort to drive agribusiness and curb food imports, the Declaration calls on conference organisers, chefs and tourism operators to make greater use of local foods and agrifood products and promises to provide support to national events designed to link agriculture to the tourism industry.

Specific strategies aimed at achieving this goal will involve supporting chefs to use local ingredients in the hospitality trade and encouraging the private sector to set up collection centres for salads, fruits and vegetables in rural areas and private sector business to handle transportation, marketing and distribution to hotels and supermarkets, with an initial feasibility study to be conducted in Fiji.

Other planned initiatives include exploring the feasibility of farmers’ cooperatives in rural areas to strengthen the quality and volume of fresh vegetables being planted and sold to the tourism industry, developing a Pacific Food Revolution tool kit and establishing a Product Development Fund.

“For too long our agriculture, tourism and other industries have worked in isolation from each other. We need to explore the trade opportunities and synergies of these industries and help our companies and farmers,” said Roy Mickey Joy, Chairman of the ACP Committee of Ambassadors and Ambassador of Vanuatu to the European Union. “High quality food, every day of the year, is essential to hotels, lodges and resorts.

The challenges of shifting food sourcing to local farmers are considerable, yet if it can be done in a way that meets commercial needs and customer tastes, this is one way in which tourism operations can significantly increase their contribution to local economic development.”

Specific outcomes from the Agribusiness Forum include joint action by CTA, PIPSO and SPC to support private sector small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the region, together with financial institutions such as the European Investment Bank, coupled with strategies to develop agritourism policies at national and regional level, aimed at promoting cross-sectoral linkages and building resilience.

There are plans to develop agribusiness platforms together with PIPSO, so as to strengthen key business information and data for SMEs and partners involved in the agribusiness sector. And SPC will work with central banks and development banks, in an effort to create better conditions for value chain finance, answering a critical need in the agribusiness sector.

A Chefs for Development platform, currently being developed by CTA and partners, including New Zealand chef and author of Pacific recipe books Robert Oliver, will seek to share effective approaches for promoting local cuisine and produce and linking chefs to the other agrifood actors.

A number of profitable companies were showcased at the Agribusiness Forum, featuring successful agribusiness ventures in the Pacific linking agriculture and fisheries to the tourism and hospitality sectors.

These included vegetable production for hotels and restaurants, organic virgin oil and local food products such as honey, chili sauce, vanilla, coffee and shellfish.

The event also focused attention on how to involve the private sector in agribusiness development and how to address data gaps in the sector, notably through the use of ICTs, including smartphone apps, drones and Participatory Geographic Information Systems (PGIS).

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