The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry, Fisheries and Biosecurity (MALFFB) has convened a forum Tuesday this week, to validate MALFFB’s Gender Equity Action Plan (GEAP) 2022 – 2025, with the main theme ‘Transforming Primary Production in Vanuatu through Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.’

The forum aims to ensure a clear understanding of the Ministry’s roles and responsibilities under the National Sustainable Development Plan (NSDP), in terms of gender mainstreaming by providing awareness on gender mainstreaming and good governance, ensuring all policy transformers and policy implementers have a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities under government policies in the context of MALFFB GEAP.

It also focuses on facilitating discussion on implications for innovative approaches to incorporating gender mainstreaming in the engagements with MALFFB clients (e.g. farmers), including participatory approaches, as well as dialogue on implications for MALFFB’s institutional responsibilities.

The forum will complete the MALFFB Gender Action Plan with inputs from each Department under the MALFFB to develop specific activities and indicators against the Gender related objectives in each Department Policy that can be incorporated into Departmental Business Plans.

The MALFFB recognises the importance of addressing Gender Equity in the Primary Productive Sector.

When delivering his speech to officially open the MALFFB GEAP forum this week in Port Vila, the MALFFB Director General, Moses Amos, stated that the importance of gender was initiated in the creation of God when God created the Garden of Eden.

“God has recognised the importance of gender when He formed Adam first and he needed a helper, thus, Eve was formed.

“The Garden of Eden is reflecting our lives today and the importance of gender still exist today.

“The MALFFB recognises the importance of addressing gender in our work,” DG Amos said.

“The role of women and youth is very important in the productive sectors.

“Women and men have traditionally shared roles and responsibilities for primary production (inclusive of agriculture, livestock, forestry and fisheries) and food security in Vanuatu.”

The DG noted in the production of cash crops, women and men make relatively equal work but in different areas, women tend to work more in labour while men take crops to market and engage with buyers.

“Agriculture is the most important form of livelihood for women, with 62% of all women employed in agriculture, livestock, forestry and fisheries. This is higher participation by women than any other sector in Vanuatu,” he said.

“Women, and other groups such as youth, also tend to work more on subsistence production, to feed the household

“In recognising the contribution of the family as a whole to farming activities, and in particular the role of the mamas.”

DG Amos pointed out that women and youth played a significant role not only in production for marketing of local produce, but also in subsistence of food.

“The roles of our mothers, waking up early in the morning and going to bed late daily, that commitment is echoed across all sectors, therefore the MALFFB has seen the importance of gender equity, in order to maintain the sustainability of its activities,” he reiterated.

“Transforming the MALFFB in Vanuatu through Gender Equity and the Empowerment of Women is a stout statement to move forward with in finalizing the MALFFB Gender Equity Action Plan.”

The MALFFB has put an emphasis on the document for validation.

The MALFFB DG acknowledged the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Team for taking the leading role in instigating the GEAP; hence, the MALFFB has come in to provide support to create the GEAP to become a national document.

“When we talk about the demographic changes in rural areas, we see the movement of youth to urban areas, people – especially men- leaving on Labour Mobility Schemes to Australia and New Zealand leaving women heading farming households and needing to keep the farm/ fishing business running,” he said.

“We have come to realise also that when they are no youth in the communities, the work of chiefs dropped because there are less strong people in the villages.”

DG Amos remarked that the document is very important, as it will provide a pathway for the MALFFB to implement, not focussing on current farmers but it will guide the Ministry to work with future farmers that are basically women and youth.

“Gender Mainstreaming in the MALFFB is substantial as it is taking timely action to develop the GEAP, identifying ways in which we can work towards a ‘better balance’ in our support of family farming,” he concluded.

The Department of Women’s Affairs (DWA) was also present at the forum to provide insights on Gender mainstreaming and Good Governance: roles and responsibilities under the NSDP and the opportunities for innovative strategic engagement with policy requirements in supporting farmers.

The Director for the Department of Women’s Affairs, Rothina Ilo Noka, says, “The MALFFB is the first government ministry to call on the DWA to discuss gender mainstreaming.

“The DG for MALFFB is the first DG that DWA will sit together and talk about gender mainstreaming, apart from my former DG.

“It is an honour to have the MALFFB DG at this gender forum, including Directors of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries. This shows that men are ready to work with women.”