Strengthening Farmers’ + Producers’ Organisations
Farmers are feeding and nourishing growing populations and realising economic development, says CTA’s Jana Dietershagen, the Technical Officer for the Pacific Islands Food Systems Project.
Recently in May, regional farmers and agricultural organizations met in a business development and empowerment discussion to maintain and grow the value chain for the agriculture sector.
The forum which focused on the Cross Learning Workshop and the Pacific Mini-Optimising the Performance of Producers’ Organisations (OPPO) Workshop, were both an extension of the project, ‘Promoting Nutritious Food Systems in the Pacific Islands’ and its component on ‘Building capacity of Pacific producer groups and development of prototype for change and scaling’, a programme hosted by the Wageningen University and Research/Centre for Development Innovation (WCDI) for six Pacific Island nations in the Netherlands (2018).
In his opening address, the Assistant Minister for Agriculture (Fiji) Viam Pillay said enhancing Pacific agribusiness and value chain performance was key to developing the sector.
‘Engaging in dialogue and sharing experiences is encouraged on critical issues, a selected few will today make direct grounds of their organisation’s business plans to financiers and development partners,’ he said.
He explained the regional countries that participated in the training programme would be highlighted in the Nadi discussions.
Seven Pacific mini OPPO alumni analyzed seven priority value chains from their respective areas of work, profiled their farmer organisations and business relationships and developed inclusive business plans with the support and guidance of the WCDI OPPO team.
Mini OPPO alumni and Certification Officer of Kokonut Pacific Ltd, Mary Jane Hou Kaikari believes the tools will strengthen working relationships between farmers in planning for the future and putting plans into action.
‘My business case is based on producing virgin coconut oil for both the international and domestic markets. It focuses on the farmer organization in the areas of governance and management, I believe the tools we’ve learned will be of great benefit not just for the Solomon Islands but farmers across the Pacific region,’ she said.
Building a sense of trust and strengthening the relationships among actors of the value chain was a key area for taro farmer and also Mini OPPO alumni, Junior Fata of Samoa.
‘There is a lot of opportunity to provide trainings and encourage farmers to join the organization, not only for taro but you can do this with other commodities like bananas and coconut. This isn’t new but as farmers our mindsets have to change and adapt with the times,’ he said.
The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation ACP-EU (CTA) through their Technical Officer for the Pacific Islands Food Systems Project, Jana Dietershagen says knowledge, joint learning, collaboration, and partnerships are key to successful innovation in Pacific agri-food systems.
‘Putting farmers and small to medium agri-enterprises at the forefront for building inclusive business models is in line with the CTA/iFAD/PIFON commitments to building capacity of value chain actors in enhancing governance and improving trust particularly between producers and buyers and financiers, producers and government,’ she said.
She explained the OPPO approach was aimed at strengthening the professionalism of farmers’ and producers’ organisations by equipping participants with the right tools and approaches to improve their professional performance and agribusiness relations.
‘Seven Pacific OPPO alumnis have been trained and are familiar with the OPPO approach as well as new tools to further support value chain and agribusiness development at the national level,’ she said.
The seven successfully co-facilitated their first training in the second week of the forum for 40 regional representatives of farmer and producer organisations across the Pacific. They are Joanna Bourke (Nishi Trading – Tonga), Junior Fata (Samoa Farmers Association – SFA – Samoa), Jiu Daunivalu (Fiji Crop & Livestock Council – Fiji), Karness Kusto (Marshall Islands Organic Farmers Association – Marshall Islands), Routan Tongaiaba (Ministry of Environment, Lands & Agriculture Development – Kiribati), Timote Waqainabete (Nature’s Way Cooperative – Fiji) and Maryjane Hou Kaikari (Virgin Coconut Oil Producers Association – Solomon Islands).
The combined workshops were a joint initiative by the Technical Centre for Agriculture and Rural Cooperation (CTA), International Fund for Agriculture Development (iFAD) and Pacific Islands Private Sector Organisation (PIPSO) ‘Innov4AgPacific’ project with Pacific Island Farmers Organisation Network (PIFON).