Farmer Organisations (FOs), once a rarity in the Pacific, are emerging as key players in the agriculture sector, making valuable contributions to the livelihoods of smallholder farmers through such areas as agricultural extension, input supply, access to markets and agricultural research.
The need for practical research and the dissemination of the information generated has never been greater with the increasing pressure of climate change, population growth and the non-communicable disease (NCD) epidemic. Farmers across the region are in great need of targeted solutions to the production constraints they are facing.
FOs involved in agricultural research utilise a decentralised research model which has proven to be more efficient and effective at meeting their specific needs than the traditional centralised research station model found across the Pacific. The decentralised research approach involves farmers themselves being directly involved in undertaking the research. In so doing this model is better able to account for the diverse ecological conditions that prevail in most island countries, where soils and climatic conditions can vary greatly over short distances. Experience
has shown that crops which perform well at a research station when certain practices are followed, can fail miserably when adopted by farmers in another area. Centralised research stations have had further setbacks in recent decades due to declining and fluctuating funding. This has occurred at a time when the information needs of farmers have never been greater in the face of the increasing challenges of climate change and commercialisation.
A decentralised research model, which utilises FOs, is proving to be an effective way to respond in a practical way to the specific challenges of Pacific island farmers. This approach allows for the efficient collection of diverse and widespread data, which in turn leads to higher farmer uptake. Effective partnerships between FOs and Ministries of Agriculture can yield substantial benefits to the sector and broader economies of Pacific island countries.