Around 30 participants that comprised key female farmers on Efate, representatives of Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) and other government partners attended a two-day workshop on ‘Women in Agriculture Vanuatu’ this week at the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s (DARD) classroom at Tagabe.

The aim of the workshop is to facilitate an initial meeting to identify key areas for action for both women farmers and women working in agriculture to support and/or extension roles, and come up with the next steps towards a national forum to be conducted during the National Week of Agriculture on August 2020.

The aim of the forum is to bring together women in agriculture with government and NGOs to identify best means to support women farmers and achieve the goals of women’s economic empowerment especially in the area of agriculture sector.

The Women Farmers’ Forum is a platform to share and disseminate information, good farming practices, specific needs of women farmers and promote the contribution of women farmers to agriculture and food security in Vanuatu, including during the national agriculture festival.

The objective of the two-day Women in Agriculture Vanuatu workshop was to identify a roadmap as to how the participation of women in agriculture, livestock, forestry, fisheries and biosecurity can effectively be engaged in the future.

Some of the key challenges identified during the workshop were female farmers having limited access to technical training, financial literacy training, capacity inclusive awareness, access to agricultural inputs, access to finance, more female extension officers needed and marketing support platform for advertising their farm products.

“We have come to realize that women in agriculture play a very important role in managing our resources and farming activities of a household,” DARD Director, Antoine Ravo said.

“Women play a critical role in agriculture in Vanuatu, and with many young men going to RSE the role of women in farming is even more loaded and becomes more important.”

Director Ravo said, “DARD and the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry, Fisheries and Biosecurity (MALFFB) also encourage the involvement of women in the workforce to become leaders to boost agriculture sector.

“Under the DARD policy and MALFFB corporate plan, we want to see more women taking leadership role in agriculture, livestock, forestry and fisheries.

“DARD is developing its Gender Action Plan which connects to the Vanuatu Agriculture Sector Policy, MALFFB’s corporate plan and the gender draft policy under the National Sustainable Development Plan (NSDP) thus paving way for equal opportunities for women in agriculture, livestock, forestry and fisheries

“At the community level, we want to include female farmers in training, providing planting materials and attending workshops like this where you (farmers) return to your communities and sharing the knowledge to other women and members of your families.”

Director Ravo continued that a lot of trainings facilitated by DARD and MALFFB indicates that 80 to 100% participation is usually by men who attended the training.

“In the future, we want to see balanced involvement of women in agriculture and also provide equal opportunity to women and people with special needs to develop agriculture sector in Vanuatu.”

The Acting Director General (DG) for MALFFB, William Naviti, revealed in his speech during the official closing of the Women in Agriculture workshop that “Women are the best managers at home because they ensure that food security and family livelihood is maintained at all times.

“Women have rightful place in any sector of development in Vanuatu socially, economically and environmentally.

“Women’s involvement in any activities in agriculture contributes to maintaining food security, improve livelihood, supporting Vanuatu’s economy and they also ensure our environment is well looked after.”

Acting DG Naviti added, “Sustainability of these activities is vital.

“The initiative of DARD bringing key female farmers together is very impressive as we mainstream gender in our activities in agriculture, forestry, livestock and fisheries.

“In the future, we should bring in female farmers from the six provinces who are involving in different activities of agriculture, share experiences, knowledge, challenges and learn from each other and together we develop agriculture sector hand in hand with their male counterparts”.

Acting DG Naviti concluded that, “Women’s role in agriculture is vital regardless of whether their conducting their activities on a backyard scale, small scale farm or a large farm — all your contribution in the sector is important”.