Information, Communications & Extension

The ICE thematic group contributes to achieving LRD objectives of improving food security and well-being of member countries by promoting innovative extension approaches to communicate information and promote new technologies for the sustainable management of agricultural and forest resources.

Regional Organic Taskforce
Wednesday, 19 May 2010 09:58

Following the 2nd Heads of Agriculture and Forestry Services Meeting in 2006, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) helped various NGOs to develop national capacity for organic farming. Subsequently, the Pacific Regional Organics Task Force (ROTF) was immediately established, which in turn, established the High Level Group (HLG), a group of four of Pacific Island leaders led by the Hon Prime Minister of Samoa to drive the initiative.

Director of SPC Land Resources Division, ‘Aleki Sisifa made these comments while delivering the keynote address at the regional organic taskforce meeting in Nadi, Fiji which is being held from 27 April to 1st May 2009.  “I would like to congratulate you the membership of the Regional Organics Task Force for the active role you have played in nurturing, guiding and leading the development of organics in the Pacific Island countries and territories thus far.”  “The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movement (IFOAM) provided the needed support right from the start. Financial and technical assistance were provided for developing the Pacific Organics Standards,” Sisifa said.

These standards, he added were approved by the HLG during the annual meeting of the Pacific Forum Islands leaders meeting in Niue last year, and launched two months later by the Samoa Prime Minister at the 2nd Regional Conference of Ministers of Agriculture and Forestry in Apia, Samoa. “Further assistance was provided by IFAD & IFOAM for the development of the Regional Organic Strategic Plan, work that was completed and disseminated widely last year.” “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 SPC implemented Facilitation of Agricultural Commodity Trade (FACT) project,” Sisifa added. Mr Sisifa firmly believed that they would not have got this far without the commitment and passion of the task force and without the financial and technical support of partners, in particularly IFAD, IFOAM and FAO.

Representatives from FAO and IFAD are attending the meeting for discussions on the next phase of organic development in the Pacific, including capacity building for national NGOs. “Regionally, we will work towards establishing a regional organic organisation, and work towards developing robust group certification schemes and internal national control systems.

IFAD Sub-regional Coordinator for the Pacific Island Countries, Mr Siale Bain-Vete said that he was pleased to be in Nadi to participate in this 5th meeting of the Regional Organic Task Force. “We in Pacific continue to face ever greater challenges such as rising food prices, global climate change, and unprecedented levels of poverty and food insecurity.” “And the most adversely affected are the poorest members of society and these people are predominantly rural dwellers,” Vete said. He added that against such backdrop, there is a need to shift the benefit of our efforts to the people and the communities who derive their livelihoods from agriculture and fisheries in the Pacific.

“This includes small farmers, fishermen and women, who are among the most vulnerable groups. Particularly exciting is the question of how we can ensure that the poor smallholders in the Pacific will actually benefit from higher agricultural commodity prices and the emerging high value niche of organic agriculture.” SPC will help in developing local and export markets and work towards establishing a Pacific organic brand that will be recognised in the international arena as uniquely Pacific.

The supply side is also to be strengthened through awareness-raising to get buy-in from all stakeholders; strengthening research and development systems by paying particular attention to post-farm produce quality, improving and increasing availability of locally produced and imported inputs, and supply consistency. Interestingly, as indicated in the strategic plan there are approximately over 700,000 individual farms in the Pacific, of which only about 1,000 have been certified organic producers from more than 16,000 ha, for export of produce such as beef, coconut oil, noni, taro, papaya, vanilla and other spices, coffee, cocoa, bananas, and tamanu oil. The regional taskforce is also looking to launch a website, and establish an information bulletin.

ICELRD’s core business is to improve the food and nutritional security of the Pacific Community through the sustainable management and development of land, agriculture and forestry resources. This is accomplished through the delivery of technical support, training and advice to our member country governments in the areas of plant protection, conservation and use of plant genetic resources, animal health and production, agroforestry, sustainable systems for agriculture, forestry and land management, and biosecurity and trade facilitation.

The Heads of Agriculture and Forestry Services (HOAFS) is the leading regional body providing guidance to LRD work plans. The biannual HOAFS Meeting endorses LRD work plans and budget. The office of the LRD Executive acts as the Secretariat for HOAFS.