|Regional Organic Taskforce to strengthen partnerships|
|Wednesday, 14 April 2010 17:28|
Suva Regional Office, FijiFollowing the 2nd Heads of Agriculture and Forestry Services Meeting in 2006, SPC helped NGOs in various countries and territories to develop national capacity for organic farming.
One of the first actions was to establish the Pacific Regional Organic Task Force (ROTF). To get political support for the initiative, the task force in turn set up the High-Level Group (HLG), a group of four Pacific Island leaders chaired by the Prime Minister of Samoa.In his keynote address to the most recent meeting of the ROTF in Nadi, Fiji (27 April to 1 May 2009), LRD Director ‘Aleki Sisifa said,
“I would like to congratulate ROTF members for the active role you have played in nurturing, guiding and leading the development of organics in Pacific Island countries and territories thus far.”
“I’d also like to acknowledge the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement s (IFOAM), which provided the needed support right from the start by giving financial and technical assistance for developing the Pacific Organic Standard.”
He noted that the draft standards were approved by the HLG during the annual meeting of Pacific Islands Forum leaders in Niue last year. The published standards were then launched two months later by the Samoan Prime Minister at the 2nd Regional Conference of Ministers of Agriculture and Forestry in Apia, Samoa.
IFAD and IFOAM also supported the development of the Regional Organic Strategic Plan, which was completed and disseminated at the end of 2008.
“So to date we have made very good headway. I should also say that FAO has supported this work throughout, as has the EU-funded FACT project (Facilitation of Agricultural Commodity Trade) that SPC is implementing,” Sisifa added.
Mr Sisifa said he firmly believed that the development of the organic sector would not have got this far without the commitment and passion of the task force and the financial and technical support of its partners, particularly IFAD, IFOAM and FAO.
Representatives from FAO and IFAD attended the meeting to discuss the next phase of organic development in the Pacific, including capacity building for national NGOs.
IFAD Sub-regional Coordinator for Pacific Island countries, Mr Siale Bain-Vete, said that he was pleased to be in Nadi to participate in the 5th meeting of the Regional Organic Task Force.
“Regionally, we will work towards establishing a regional organic organisation and developing robust group certification schemes and internal national control systems,” said Siale.
“We in the Pacific continue to face ever greater challenges such as rising food prices, climate change, and unprecedented levels of poverty and food insecurity.”
“The most adversely affected are the poorest members of society and these people are predominantly rural dwellers,” Vete said.
He added that against such a backdrop, there is a need to reward the efforts of the people and communities who derive their livelihoods from agriculture and fisheries in the Pacific.
“This includes small farmers and fishers, who are among the most vulnerable groups.
Particularly exciting is the question of how we can ensure that smallholders in the Pacific will actually benefit from higher agricultural commodity prices and the emerging high-value niche for organic products.”
SPC will help in developing local and export markets and will work towards establishing a Pacific organic brand that will be recognised in the international arena as uniquely Pacific.
The supply side will also be strengthened through awareness rising to get buy-in from all stakeholders and by paying particular attention to post-farm produce quality, availability of locally produced and imported inputs, and supply consistency.
Interestingly, as indicated in the strategic plan, there are over 700,000 individual farms in the Pacific, but only about 1000, representing 16,000 ha, have been certified as organic. These farms produce beef, coconut oil, noni, taro, papaya, vanilla and other spices, coffee, cocoa, bananas and tamanu oil.
The regional taskforce plans to launch a website, and establish an information bulletin.
For further information please contact Vinesh Prasad or visit lrdhelpdesh.