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Query 9: Relevance of Policy Framework to Support and Strengthen Agricultural Extension and Rural Advisory Services
The PAFPNet topic for the month of August, "Relevance of Policy Framework to Support Strengthen Agricultural Extension and Rural Advisory Services" pinpointed similar views on establishing a solidified framework for extension services support by tackling central issues. This discussion focused on five (5) questions rendering the key priorities that should be deemed paramount in various countries regarding extension services, its limitations and the roles of various support systems.
Extension services have proved to be significant in the progression of agriculture as well as the development of rural areas. Members showcased their opinions highlighting reasons for of extension services in their countries. According to members, there is a need to implement or update policy guidelines to place specific emphasis on certain agriculture types. This corresponds with resource intensive smallholder mixed economies or large-scale capital intensive production implicating changes in land use and tenure as a means to help forge collaborations with the private sectors and Government ministries. Capacity building and proper training among extension officers and new recruits was also featured to help in the understanding of the various roles and functions in extension services as a channel to strengthen extension and research linkages.
An important element for an efficient farmer support system in the Pacific is the role of the extension services readily available. Funding and resources are essential to carry out an effective extension service system. According to a respondent, network strategies must be formulated to help increase funding in this area. Assistance from the government and Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) could be the solution to improving the overall extension services to farmers.
The discussion also presented an opposing view stating that in most cases, funding has not the issue. The problem lay with misdirection due to lack of planning and groundwork policies. The efficiency and the effectiveness of the extension officers comes in to play for a practical and operable support system to farmers. Given the fact that the system structuring of extension services being provided is an area that is lacking, it is vital that implementing guidelines be adhered to and enforced.
Involving farming organisations and the private sector are boosters to extension services support. Fully utilising the parties services would help clarify underlying issues and address the needs of farmers in the area of extension. Consultations need to be made through these farming organisations and the private sectors; therefore linkages must be enhanced and further enforced to receive the desired outcome with the engagement of the listed parties.
More emphasis must be placed on research and development in order to achieve an improvement in extension, members mentioned. Research and development can be adopted by farmers based on their willingness to progress in the agriculture sector. This implementation depends on the farmers’ creativity, intuitiveness and intellectual capacity. Moreover, according to a contributor, farmers can only adopt research and development if farmers see it addressing their needs.
In order to create the necessary awareness on the importance of exercising extension service support, it needs to be implemented in the education systems of our schools. Rather than have these lessons revolved around the theory aspect, a more practical approach must be considered. Infrastructural support is also vital for the advocacy of these extension services.
Priority training by extension officers must be highlighted to achieve an effective extension service system. More emphasis on understanding ecological, cultural and economic impacts is what is needed by farmers. Focus must be placed on possible long-term effects on a wider scale of the services provided by the extension sector.
Query 8: Addressing Biosecurity in the Pacific Island countries and Territories (PICTs)
The PAFPNet topic for the month of July, "Addressing Biosecurity in the Pacific Island countries and Territories (PICTs)" highlighted questions that would help bring to light problematic areas being faced in this industry. The five (5) questions that were presented during the discussion were posed also with the intention of determining the needs for improvement to be better able to shape possible solutions.
Contributors to the discussion had formulated various definitions of the two terms “Biosecurity” and “Quarantine” and were asked to expound on what the terms signified. The forum produced relatively similar classifications of the both terms. Biosecurity was simply depicted as the protection against plant and animal pests and weeds into a new environment. It includes the measures taken to stop the spread or introduction of harmful organisms to human, animal and plant life. Quarantine was outlined as the confinement or strict isolation of specimen(s) (usually exotic) posing either a direct or an indirect threat or risk to existing life forms (native species) in a natural setting. The condition of quarantine confinement is reliant on the notion of whether ships, persons, animals or plants are carrying any sort of infectious or contagious diseases.
The effective and efficient monitoring of border protection against the introduction of exotic pests and diseases in PICTs is impossible to maintain. Discussions had raised key pointers for the inclusion of new pests and diseases with a country’s border. According to members, the increase in international trade and travel (movement of people) is one of the many channels to the high rise entry of various pests and diseases. These channels are considered as a non-deliberate means of border exposure. Moreover, legal importation of goods, animals and plants can be accompanied by pests that may go undetected, sometimes as a result of inadequate checks.
Additionally, illegal importation such as smuggling of prohibited goods was also highlighted as one of the major reasons for border intrusion of diseases. However, various means of exposure were emphasized, including introduction by natural means, a condition deemed uncontrollable. For instance, the wind, ocean and even migratory animals become vessels for transferring various pests and diseases. In the case for migratory animals, this is most commonly found in wild birds that may carry with them the bird flu virus.
Considering the issues posed during the engagement, associates suggested for adequate human and financial resources to be made more available to improve border security. Furthermore, training of staff and quarantine officers on a full range of skills and capabilities related to the safekeeping of our borders was mentioned key to addressing the issue of the lack of staff knowledge and ineffective security implementation. To add on, forming closer partnerships among government, private enterprises, educational and research institutes, as well as the community was deliberated as an effective enforcement element to increase border defence and protection against various pests and diseases.
Lastly, providing the network with the Pest List Database (PLD), most of the members were not aware of its existence. However, many had made mention of its usefulness. According to a comment made on the forum, although the PLD is made available to its users there is still a need for improvement. This database must be constantly updated to help formulate an effective and efficient implementation strategy that will help tackle the border control issue.
Query 7: Linking Farmers to the Tourism Market
The PAFPNet topic for the months of May/June, "Linking Farmers to the Tourism Market" focused on questions that highlighted key problem areas affecting the connection between producers and hoteliers in the tourism industry, as well as methods to strengthen this link. This discussion topic was initiated with the objective of providing assistance, paired with a concrete dialogue outline to help close the gap between producers and buyers in the tourism market during the Pacific Agriculture Policy Project (PAPP) funded Pacific Community Agritourism Week held in June 2015.
Linking farmers to the Tourism market was a concept that stimulated constructive debate and dialogue among PAFPNet members. Bridging the gap between producers and the tourism market has been identified as an innovative way to reduce poverty and improve sustainability in the Small Island Developing States (SIDS). The connection between farmers and hoteliers in the tourism industry contends with many issues. The implementation of this idea faces the practicality of supply and demand consistency and the agriculture/tourism market capacity.
To address the issue of supply consistency, the importation of off-season crop varieties was suggested to help maintain the regularity of supply to hotel chefs. However, the notion of intensifying efforts to utilise local produce was predominant among members’ during the discussion. Promoting and creating more awareness on the utilisation of local produce would play a key contributing factor to addressing the issue of supply consistency. Providing farmers with incentives, for instance, granting subsidies for farm equipment, vegetable seeds and fertilizers will help boost production, thus increasing the probability of its use locally.
Moreover, participants in the forum proposed for training workshop initiatives highlighting modern farming techniques as well as business/marketing knowledge. The techniques mentioned should be rendered around producing quality efficient crops compatible with meeting the standard criteria in the tourism market. Additionally, strategizing and preparing farm and cropping plans and calendars would help minimize the issue of crop supply shortage by providing farmers with the necessary business skills through various training initiatives.
The mention of policy incentives for both farmers and hotels from the government fuelled a number of recommendations. Participants made mention that the government should ensure the local market is protected with their continued support to develop. This support was encompassed around the implementation of policies compelling hoteliers to use local produce in their kitchens. However, a more realistic mention stated that the government should form a policy stating the usage of both local and imported produce on a 50/50 basis by hoteliers, with the exception of the comparative advantage aspect.
On the same note, given that islands in the Pacific, specifically low-lying coastal countries are most vulnerable to natural disasters, a policy for crop insurance was recommended to cater to the loss of crops during unforeseen events.
However, according to one contributor during the discussion, a ‘policy incentive’ may not necessarily be ideal to improve the linkage sustainability. Hotels should be sourcing from farmers because they believe it is beneficial to do so (either in terms of it being cheaper, or fresher, or offering some intangible benefit that hotel guests value in terms of supporting the local community), not because of an incentive offered by the government.
Information and awareness is important to both farmers and the hotels to ensure steady coordination between the two sectors. In order for farmers to be efficient in crop production, they must have a fair idea of the tourism market, that is, tourism peaks, tourists’ preference on local foods and a list of popular local meals. In having this information, farmers will better determine potential agricultural products aligned with the potential of the tourism market. Additionally, hotels need to also consider alternatives to using middlemen (purchasing officers) for the supply of their produce. Members commented that hotels should undertake extra efforts to acquire farmers’ contact and crop information/prices. This would help motivate farmers to produce more on a commercial scale with crops that meet an exceptional criterion.
It is essential that communication lines are effective to maintain the connection between farmers and the hotel markets. Using mediums like the use of phone applications was mentioned to help improve the dissemination of market information. Social Media and the use of online applications would help both parties stay updated with the tourism market fluctuations and crop seasonality.
On another note, given that value-add products play an immense role in our commercial market, promotional measures must be considered to help increase its market demand. Exposing local agri-products at national and international trade shows for exposure was a method discussed on the network. Also, using already existing ministries/institutions and organizations in the market would increase the chances of likely sponsorship of local agri-products which would pave the way for improved marketability.
Finally, the seasonality of crops is one of the constraining factors affecting the growth and development of our agriculture industry in relation to the hotel markets. The implementation of Agro-processing was highlighted to as a means to strengthen the local agriculture sector. Transforming local goods in their raw form to products would have a higher potential rate to sell in the hotel/tourism market. This point then brings us back to the importance of value-add products and how its use would be a potential key channel to linking farmers to the tourism market with higher returns.
Query 6: Livestock Production in the Changing Environment of Pacific Islanders
The PAFPNet topic for the month of April, "Livestock Production in the Changing Environment of Pacific Islanders", focused on two questions on livestock development in the Pacific region. The two questions highlighted the key constraints of livestock production in the Pacific with suggested solutions to address the challenges. The key objective of this query was to encourage stakeholder participation towards the improvement of national livestock production.
Livestock production, like crop production, is fundamental for food security in the Pacific. However, feedback on the discussion forum identified that the focus on livestock development is weak and measures must be taken to strengthen emphasis and progression in this area.
The high cost of livestock feed was highlighted as one of the major constraints in the livestock industry. According to the discussion, the main reason for high cost of stock feed is due to its importation. As a result of local stock feed shortage, importing feed is essential to cater for livestock population. PNG said stock feed cost is literally killing the industry. Expensive feed leads to higher production costs, thus contributing to higher price for local meat supply which further leads to cheaper consumer alternatives (canned meat etc). In addition, although local feed is available, the quality of it is very poor; hence the substitute of imported feed. The quality of feed can either have a negative or positive effect on livestock animals. Therefore, having feed quality that is well below the average standard can have an adverse effect on the sustenance of livestock.
The unavailability of land has been identified as another major livestock restriction especially in smaller Pacific Island Countries (PICs). Members made mention that limited land space is seen as a hindrance to the growth of the livestock sector. The competition for land among other infrastructural development alongside population pressure puts a limiting cap on expanding livestock development. Another contributing factor to this issue is the immense price tag placed on land purchase. It is either too expensive for farmers to buy or is inherited with the obligation of land sharing amongst multiple farmers.
The livestock sector is also suffering as a result of inadequate facilities, equipment unavailability and poor road access. These issues need to be addressed as they play a major role for livestock water supply system, slaughtering, sanitary treatment, health, management and livestock sector service access.
Other problematic factors agreed on by our participants, affecting the livestock sector, were the out-dated animal health and development policies and the lack of professional veterinarians and veterinary services. Without practical policies and legislations implemented/renewed and the initiation of training for the veterinary profession, the livestock sector will continue to lack funding support for livestock development in the PICs.
Measures were also discussed as possible solutions to the livestock constraint. Contributors on the forum suggested that in identifying and producing local feed formulations, this would reduce reliance on alternative feed imports. Other suggestions included carrying out surveys of available local feeds as an initial step to establishing a local feed resource database as well as creating feed marketing systems to improve farmer access to livestock feed.
Recommendations for the land issue included adopting viable production systems and technologies that would include the best traditional practices to improve production. Outside intervention from private and public sector for financial support and sponsorship was also seen as being key to improving the functionality of the livestock industry.
Similarly members agreed on placing more emphasis on implementing and initiating additional training for livestock farmers in the rural areas to help maximize livestock production. This would include knowledge sharing as a means of strengthening and expanding Paravet training. Policy development was also reviewed in the discussion to help increase access to funding for market infrastructure and access to market information, which would assist farmers to improve the trade of their livestock products.
This query triggered a lot of valuable information to help in the development and progression of the Livestock industry here in the Pacific. Revamping the involvement of livestock stakeholders is essential to undertaking the constraints faced by this industry. Overall, all members found it crucial that all existing legislations and policies related to national livestock development, objectives, scope and strategic outcomes be reviewed and updated to help foster a more sustainable livestock industry.
Query 5: Vulnerability of Pacific Agriculture and Forestry to Climate Change
The PAFPNet topic for the month of March, "Vulnerability of Pacific Agriculture and Forestry to Climate Change" modelled five questions for the discussion forum. Each question encompassed similar responses in relation to the stability of agriculture and forestry to the change in the climatic state. Members of the network discussed both the positive and negative impacts of climate change on land produce and various ways to incorporate traditional knowledge and practices. Additionally, PAFPNet associates mentioned the importance of climate information being simplified and translated for both subsistence and commercial farmers.
Climate change plays a major role in the production and variation of agriculture and forestry produce. Climate change is known to affect the characteristics of natural resources that are necessary for farming practices. As a result of changes in the climate, plants and animals alike are forced to adapt to the new settings. Therefore, farming systems that incorporate climate change resilient practices should be adopted.
Numerous threats on agriculture were discussed as a result of climate change. Extreme weather conditions was labelled as one of the greatest risks to agriculture. Increased frequency and intensity of drought was highlighted as one of the key factors to crop degradation. Flooding was also mentioned as a significant issue because of the build-up and spread of soil diseases such as the rotting of roots and nematodes. Additionally, the salinity accumulation in soil stemming from floods was pinpointed as one of the many negatives effects on PICTs food sources especially for small islands and atolls. Moreover, changes in climatic conditions like that of the environmental temperature were also discussed to favour large outbreaks of known pests and diseases as a result of the subtle shifts in the bio-dynamics of the ecosystem.
Members also shared their different views on traditional knowledge regarding agriculture and weather/climate information which involves the knowledge passed on from generations before. Communities to date still use some form of traditional indicators of weather and time. To list a few traditional climate information shared from the discussion, had mentioned that during a cyclone in Vanuatu, if a black sea bird was seen flying, it indicated the cyclone nearing an end soon. Also, in Samoa, Savaii, a change in wind direction coming over the mountains was seen as a strong indication that a cyclone was developing. Given what the members had noted down during the exchange, traditional knowledge is still held in high esteem for climatic changes and disaster preparedness.
Traditional approaches are developed over a long time frame with adaptive features to the local environment. It is vital that traditional methods are not discarded, rather adjusted to when dealing with climate change. Agroforestry practice was identified as a means to stabilize the impacts of climate change. Likewise, traditional agroforestry was mentioned to pave the way to building more resilient communities to combat the negative effects of the changes in climate. However, traditional agroforestry practices have now been perceived to be almost non-existent to date. A solution to promote this approach via workshops and trainings was suggested. This would ensure that this knowledge is collected, stored and packaged to be disseminated to the interested parties and safeguarded for the younger generations benefit.
Furthermore, information related to climate and weather conditions and its readings should be converted to help provide support to the work of farmers in both the agriculture and forestry sector with the aim of receiving the maximum value of work supplied by farmers. Dialogues on this topic stated that there needs to be a steady existence of communication channels in order to help integrate and maintain information from the Meteorological office and community level development plans.
Finally, most members in their various areas of expertise had discussed and described their working relationship with their various Meteorological services as solid. This relationship has opened up great opportunities for both interest groups and has provided a wider platform of understanding between agriculture/forestry and its relevancy to climate change.