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The inaugural Pacific Week of Agriculture (PWA) opens in October in Vanuatu. The five-day event, which will be held in the capital of Port Vila from Oct. 16 to 20, will explore strategies for boosting the region’s two main sources of revenue — agriculture and tourism — while increasing production of healthy food for local consumption, and addressing problems of youth unemployment and nutrition-related illness.

Taking the theme Pacific CROPs: Culture, Resilience, Opportunities, Products, Sustainability, the Pacific Week of Agriculture will examine a number of approaches to sustainable development for the region, including strengthening agrifood and nutrition systems, promoting agritourism and other forms of agribusiness, encouraging climate smart agriculture and stimulating finance for agriculture, ICT for agriculture and value chain development.

Nearly 200 participants are expected to attend the week-long event, including farmers and agri-entrepreneurs, ministers of agriculture and other senior government officials, representatives from regional and international organisations, the private sector, civil society, agrifinance and development, and the tourist and hospitality trade.

The Pacific Week of Agriculture marks a new milestone in South-South cooperation. It is largely inspired by the Caribbean Week of Agriculture (CWA), which was launched for the first time in 1999. Delegates from the Caribbean will be attending the Pacific event, with support from the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), which has been closely involved in promoting cross-learning between the two regions and is co-hosting this first edition of PWA.

There are a number of parallels between the Pacific and the Caribbean in terms of challenges and opportunities in the agrifood sector. Both regions face similar challenges from climate change, natural disasters, high food imports, small internal markets and reliance on a few export commodities.

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“Together with our partners, CTA has been in the forefront of guiding the Pacific region towards this first Pacific Week of Agriculture, and we greatly look forward to playing a prominent role,” CTA Director Michael Hailu said.

“We are committed to the sustainable development of the Pacific agrifood sector, to supporting climate smart agriculture solutions and agricultural innovation to increase access to affordable locally produced nutritious food. A strong agrifood sector is essential for job creation, economic growth and trade and for combatting non-communicable diseases and micronutrient deficiency in the Pacific.”

Identifying opportunities for young people will be a special focus of PWA, given the region’s large and growing population of under 25-year-olds and its high rate of youth unemployment, which currently stands at 25 per cent. During the event, CTA will seek to gain commitment from partners for a regional action plan on youth entrepreneurship. Successful youth entrepreneurs from Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific will be attending PWA as youth ambassadors, sharing critical success factors and lessons learned.

Other initiatives to be addressed at PWA include a regional agritourism roadmap, a regional Pacific Value Chain Coordinating /Agricultural Innovation (VCC/AI) platform for upgrading priority value chains, and a plan to strengthen the agriculture-nutrition nexus and enhance women’s empowerment in Vanuatu. Chefs will offer training courses during the week, showcasing nutritious dishes based on local food products.

“The key messages that sum up this first PWA are innovation, youth and partnerships,” said Judith Francis, senior programme coordinator of science and technology policy at CTA and Leader of the Pacific Flagship Project, run by CTA and the Pacific Islands Private Sector Organisation (PIPSO) with co-financing from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

“We will be taking advantage of this excellent convening platform to showcase our work, interact with diverse agricultural stakeholders and get their feedback on the innovative approach we are taking in partnership with IFAD and PIPSO to support agribusiness and value chain development for improving food and nutrition outcomes.”

CTA is supporting a number of side events during the week. These include a learning journey for value chain and agribusiness actors, meetings focusing on youth entrepreneurship, agritourism linkages and value chain/agribusiness development, and a two-day national agriculture-nutrition workshop.

“PWA will significantly contribute to the enhancement of communication between agriculture stakeholders in the Pacific,” said Sakiusa Tubuna, regional coordinator for the Pacific at IFAD, a key partner in the side events.

“It also provides a platform whereby we can share knowledge with other stakeholders. IFAD will be co-sponsoring a number of side events. These events will entail project staff and beneficiaries sharing experiences on how the projects have changed their lives.”

In parallel to the Pacific Week of Agriculture, the two-day Vanuatu Agritourism Festival 2017 will be held on Oct. 16 and 17, with success stories shared by a range of rural players from the farming, handicraft, value addition, catering, fisheries and forestry sectors.

“The hosting of an Agritourism Festival as part of PWA will help to strengthen the cause of agritourism, not only in Vanuatu, but also in the Pacific — a concept which CTA has been very instrumental in driving for several years now,” said Howard Aru, coordinator of PWA. “For some of our farmers, PWA will be a golden opportunity to forge stronger linkages with chefs and the tourism Industry as a whole, as the country continues to drive the important agenda of agritourism in the coming years.”

The Pacific Week of Agriculture is jointly organised by the Government of Vanuatu, CTA, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the Pacific Community.