Jul 21, 2019 Last Updated 3:02 AM, Jul 19, 2019

JACKSSON Kalses describes himself as a small-time farmer in east Efate, the island in which Port Vila, the national capital of Vanuatu sits. From the income he gets from his vegetable farm of mainly cabbage, tomato and beans, Kalses provides for his young family including his three children who currently attend elementary school. “I have up to five hectares of land but I only farm about one hectare of that,” Kalses tells me.

“I’ve been farming for the last two to three years now, selling mostly to supermarkets and to the Central Market in Port Vila sometimes. I also do sell some vegetables to Iririki Island Resort, but I’m not a big supplier.” As if reading my mind, Kalses didn’t wait for my next question as he remarked: “My biggest problem is water. During the off-season, I am unable to grow many vegetables due to lack of rain.

“This usually happens during the months of August to December every year....

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SPC reform on ice

HOPES by the Pacific Community (SPC) to restructure one of its divisions were dashed when member government representatives refused to endorse the restructure proposal at a recent meeting in Vanuatu.

Officials who attended the Heads of Agriculture and Forestry Services (HOAFS) instead told SPC to initiate consultations first with member states about the proposed restructure. “You had five years to research, prepare and circulate papers (about the proposed restructure),” acting director general of Vanuatu’s ministry of agriculture Benjamin Shing told the HOAF meeting held at the Iririki Island Resort last October. “Going forward, I would like to see the strategic and business plans to be circulated to members well before hand to allow them to comment on areas that are relevant to them.”

The meeting heard that only Samoa had a copy of the restructure plans, and this was sent to its delegates a fortnight before the Vanuatu meeting.  

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Vanuatu beef is premium

SHORTAGE of Vanuatu’s premium beef has prompted the island government to embark on an ambitious re-stocking programme that hopes to see the doubling of heads of cattle in eight years. With total cattle heads currently standing at 230,000, the Livestock Department of Vanuatu’s Ministry of Agriculture aims to grow this to 500,000 heads of cattle by 2025. First phase of the re-stocking programme, which was launched by the previous government of then Prime Minister Moana Carcases in 2012 cost the island’s taxpayers VU$30million (US$274,445).

Cattle farmers were encouraged to increase their cattle numbers w i t h t h e national government offering to subsidise the cost of buying new cattle. National government offered to pay 50 per cent of the cost as well as transportation of the animals. “It was an expensive exercise but the new government continued with the programme as it was committed to addressing beef shortage in Vanuatu,” explains Lee Bong, Livestock Director of the ministry of agriculture.

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Greener days are coming

1184 certified organic farmers

THE historic launching of Organic Pasifika at Laminu Stadium on Tanna Island last month (September 20) certified 1184 organic farmers from Tanna alone. It is a signal that greener days are coming to the Pacific. Vanuatu’s National Task Force coordinating the first ever Pacific Week of Agriculture (PWA) in Port Vila from October 10 – 20, is racing against time, with confidence to pull off the first-ever regional event with a category of success.

The Vanuatu Government has launched the Agri Tourism Policy to bridge the gap between farm and restaurant. The bridge is working wonders in the Caribbean Islands, the birth place of PWA. Meanwhile Breakas Beach Resort on the southern outskirts of Port Vila is piloting organic dishes on its menu in line with the wishes of its health conscious customers.

The initiative is aimed at certifying the resort as an organic resort and to encourage other resorts to follow suit. At the end of the day it is a win-win situation for the organic farmer, organic resort and healthy people.

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The road to PWA 2017

OVERSEAS travel by government officials can be quite controversial at times and often comes under the microscope in the Pacific. More often than not, criticisms are not way off the mark. Not for Vanuatu’s former Minister of Agriculture David Tosul and his then Director-General Mr. Howard Aru; current Coordinator of PWA 2017.

The year was 2014, October 6 to 12 when they represented Vanuatu at the 13th Caribbean Week of Agriculture for the first time in Paramaribo, Surinam. That was when the idea of a Pacific Week of Agriculture was hatched. “We were at this luncheon.

The Minister leaned over to me and said, ‘DG what do you think if I propose that Vanuatu host something like this?’ “I said, I think that’s a great idea,” Mr Aru responded. The minister stood up during the course of the luncheon and publicly announced Vanuatu’s interest in hosting something similar to CWA. Partners picked up the declaration almost immediately and that was the birth of PWA. As they say, the rest is history.

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