In May 2018, CTA, IFAD and PIPSO organized the regional forum on “Developing Pacific Local Food Crops & Fisheries Value Chains – Key Innovations & Critical Success Factors” within the project ‘Promoting Nutritious Food Systems in the Pacific Islands’.
The aim of the Forum was to craft the way forward in the form of collective national and regional action plans that can lead to the further development and upgrading of Pacific local food crops and fisheries value chains for improved food and nutrition outcomes, livelihoods and income and sustainable natural resource management.
We spoke to Gillian Stewart, Programme Manager at Women in Business Development (WIBDI) Samoa (in picture) who was one of the 130 participants of the regional forum.
“The content of the forum was very timely for a lot of issues that we are dealing with. It is just critical to be looking at identifying ways in which we can bring all of those elements together to tackle health and well-being”, said Gillian.
Structured process of Forum important to arrive at common census
The national and regional plans that were created and endorsed during the regional forum are evidence based and an outcome of a well-structured approach.
When you broke us up into countries we all started to see different things that became priorities within country. All of the elements are important but there are certain things/ drivers that happen in Samoa that may not happen in Fiji. We looked at the strategic goals of the government’s plan and it’s all in there.
The process was initiated with catalyst speeches based on multi-country studies as well as presentations on key innovations, successes and lessons learned on weather-based index insurance; access to finance and rural financial service provision; novel ICTs including mobile phone applications and Pacific traditional foods to positively impact nutrition and health outcomes.
It was a very good process, there was a lot of thought put in starting big and then drilling it in, we certainly got clarity about priorities down to the country level, which was a good thing to take away and keep working on it to the next phase.
In the round-table discussions, participants validated the key innovations and determined the key attributes and critical success factors to achieve the desired impacts. They developed regional action plans based on relevance and high priorities which were then rated by groups representing the various stakeholders e.g. farmers, financiers, public sector officials, SMEs. After achieving consensus on the regional actions, multi-stakeholder national groups then reviewed, prioritised and designed national action plans.
From global to regional to local scale
CTA, in its mandate aims to foster innovation and believes not only in sharing technology and actionable knowledge across African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries who are facing similar challenges but also in mobilizing stakeholders. The regional Forum also brought together scalable experiences in agricultural insurance, ICTs and community food production from east and southern Africa and Asia.
It does not matter where you are in the ACP there are similar trends about adoption of new technologies; opportunities to empowering families, men and women farmers; strengthening the connection to markets and income generation and shifting preferences back to nutritionally dense foods. The forum brought that experience and wisdom from across the globe together.
Valuable connections made
One additional aim of the regional forum was to foster networking among value chain stakeholders across the Pacific region and to strengthen public-private-producer partnerships.
One of the important connections we made was actually a local connection, with METI, with their capacity in working with people and trying to implement a new nutritional strategy to reverse symptoms of diabetes and other NCDs. Also with the Samoa Farmers Organisation. We looked at ways in which we can start a dialogue and we talked about our common purpose which is income generation and utilizing healthy produce at home too for farmers regardless of scale; and actually having that healthy food system going into the communities, where access or time constraints can be a real issue. We have the frontline ability to step in by strengthening the connections between farmers and consumers.
I was able to network, listen and understand the issues and trends within the Pacific region, knowing that you are not alone. We all have strategies we can then tailor to address economic, social and cultural needs at local level. It was also a real regional connection and strengthening exercise too, by bringing so many different elements in from academia, private sector, government/policy and putting it all together. It actually became a forum that was so strong in its sense of mobilizing the people, that needed to be brought together in one room, and to see the strength in numbers to tackle the issues across the region. We are all in it together but we all got our own ways in which we are going to do things locally.
How do you see the way forward?
I left the forum understanding the strategic issues and the region better. Also getting new ideas of what other countries are doing; and other tools and practices they are utilising. I was able to go back home a lot more informed to start doing some of that networking and strengthening along the supply chain to make things happen now.
At local level; you gave us the opportunity to see who is there, what is there. It’s now up to us to make it happen. To make opportunities and connections happen and that’s what’s really important taking that energy and momentum, knowing that there are some really positive things to be gained by taking the time and investing the energy into relationship building, and seeing the next step to turn it into action. For example how can we utilize the technology and how can we get people having access to it.
My take home message is the critical call to action now. It’s not about waiting, we have a lot of the elements of things in place so it is really up to us to do that connecting work along our supply chain and really have some impact in the short to medium term. I believe we can achieve that not just looking at longer term goals, but we can act now and have real impact in the short term.
Let’s start to make it happen.
The regional and national action plans are currently being further reviewed by the participants to integrate priority actions that they can support in their ongoing programmes at national and regional level. The Value Chain Coordination/ Agricultural Innovation online Innov4AgPacific platform will be used as a tool to ensure further discussions and tracking of implementation is taking place.