Understanding the agricultural and forestry national policy landscape is a key first step for any national and regional policy intervention. The baseline at the commencement of the project was that it was not easily determinable as to which countries had national level agricultural policies, its status and what the priorities were for the sector.
What do they Say and Where to Next?
Apia, Samoa – A forum exploring linkages between research and the knowledge Pacific Island farmers need to improve their agricultural practices wraps up today at Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi conference centre in Apia. . The region’s farmers are in need of improved extension advice to increase their efficiency, something that can only be achieved through capacity building training that is knowledge-based.
"Agriculture plays a vital role in achieving sustained growth, trade development and poverty alleviation in the region,” Samoa’s Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, the Hon. Le Mamea Ropati, said in opening the forum. “A strong and diverse agriculture sector is our best defence against the impacts of climate change, while meeting food security needs and contributing to the national economy,”Minister Ropati said.
Up to 80 per cent of Pacific Island populations depend directly or indirectly on the agricultural sector for their livelihoods, food and social security. However, agricultural productivity across the region has stagnated or declined over the past four decades. A major threat faced by Pacific Island Countries (PICs) is their growing dependence on imported food, which is a result of the limited capacity of their smallholder-based agriculture sectors to supply and satisfy domestic demand.
A major challenge for policy makers and agriculture sector stakeholders is to obtain greater food security for the region by encouraging the large proportion of semi-subsistence farmers to move into commercial production through sustained participation in competitive markets. Improvement of domestic market infrastructure, local value-added processing, and the development of regional markets for diverse Pacific crops would build on and support the desirable aspects of traditional farming.
The Program aims to strengthen the livelihoods of smallholder farmers by strengthening their linkages to markets, improving access to information, research, and knowledge and strengthening the policy and operating environment for farmers through clearer, evidence based policies. Pacific economies are largely rural, agriculture based economies. Family farms or smallholder farmers are a key unit in these economies. PAPP has three key result areas (KRAs):
• KRA 1: Strengthen regional agricultural development strategy
Pacific agricultural and forestry policy inventory
Development of a new Pacific Regional Inventory of (national-level) Ag/F Policies is currently underway, with the consultant appointed and having commenced work in December 2014. An early draft was received from the consultant in February 2015.
In conducting the inventory, source documents were identified for 15 Pacific Island countries. Six countries have current national agriculture sector policies or strategies. For others, national guidance for the agriculture sector is through agriculture agency plans, or the agriculture content of national development strategies.
There is no common format for the plans/strategies; each is based on the needs and circumstances of the country concerned. Although the documents differ in character and content across the different countries, there are some common themes and concerns. The content of the agriculture plans was analysed at two levels. An initial review of national priorities (as defined in the respective national documents) highlighted four thematic areas as being common within the Pacific Islands region:
• Food Security
• Economic Development
• Sustainability and resilience
• Effective Institutions
Documents were also reviewed in detail to identify sub categories of common interest within these four themes.
Under Food Security, the most common issues identified were: nutrition, reducing dependence on imported food, and making use of traditional knowledge and practices.
Much of the national plan content was focussed on Economic Development, a range of common issues were identified within groupings:
a. access to credit/finance;
b. local markets;
d. adding value;
e. crop and livestock improvement;
f. infrastructure (processing and transport);
g. private sector role;
h. rural livelihoods and the capacity to participate;
i. land access and tenure arrangements.