Farmers, foresters, and fishermen from across the country, the government, and stakeholders are convening on Malekula for the third National Week of Agriculture (NWA), which opened yesterday.

“Strengthening a sustainable resilient productive sector that is safe and secure for Vanuatu” is the theme for the event which aims to empower farmers and the community in building a resilient productive sector.

The Minister for the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry, Fisheries and Biosecurity (MALFFFB), Nako Natuman, who was supposed to deliver the opening remarks did not attend due to the political situation.

His opening address was delivered by the Member of Parliament (MP) for Malekula, Anatole Hymak. MP Hymak begun his speech by mentioning the important role farmers play in feeding the population of Vanuatu, particularly during the State of Emergency which ends next month and other disasters.

Around 87% of the households are engaged in agriculture activities. The majority of the population depends on subsistence agriculture for their daily sustenance and well-being.

National production data has shown that the sectors of agriculture, livestock, forestry, fisheries and biosecurity can produce over VT730 billion worth of agricultural produce, said MP Hymak.

“These figures demonstrates the power of rural economy activity. It is important that we must not underestimate the size and importance of the productive sector contributions in the national economy, and its central role of building economic resilience capacity in the face of climate change,” he said.

Hymak said the NWA is an avenue to bring every stakeholder from the private and government sectors and farmers to share talents and information, discuss challenges and ways to move forward in building a sustainable and resilient food system from primary processing to value addition and marketing.

“Identify production strength and capacity for each island and province; discuss ways to produce, prepare local food during a disease outbreak; and the need to have sustainable diets with low environmental impacts,” he said.

MP Hymak said it’s time for Vanuatu to focus on working smart to transform the productive sector for the benefit of the future generation.

“We must accelerate out from traditional farming to commercial; we must make agriculture a leading business to increase income and revenue.

“We must set up provincial agribusiness centers to facilitate market information, trades and response to any natural disasters, embrace technology to increase primary production of Vanuatu made products to boost value of raw products.

“We must facilitate access to agriculture financial credit to support sustainable farming system, allow equal opportunities to women and youth in agriculture development, build the capacity of youth, farmers and fishermen in innovative and new farming systems and technology.

“We must support research to produce livestock feed, climate resilient crops varieties, protect our plants and animals from diseases like the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle and support rural markets on the main islands,” added the MP.