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Pacific Organic Farmers Sow Innovative Seeds into Agritourism

A regional talaloa session held last week highlighted the new opportunities created by Pacific organic farmers using innovative approaches to lessen the economic and social effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and to achieve self-sufficiency.

The session was organized by the Pacific Organic and Ethical Trade Community (POETCom) program of the Land Resources Division of the Pacific Community in collaboration with the South Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO) and the Pacific Agribusiness Research in Development Initiative – Phase 2 (PARDI2).

Titled Organically tilled from Farm to Table – an Oceania Pasifika Experience the online session focused on the value of organic agriculture and the five principles it brings to the agritourism sector: health, ecology, fairness, care, and culture, and traditions.

“The Fijian Government is focused on promoting local produce in the tourism market, improving the livelihood of local farmers and lowering Fiji’s food import bill, said the Honourable Faiyaz Siddiq Koya, Fiji’s Minister for Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport in his opening remarks.  “Fiji’s main hotels are key in creating the food experience for visitors and maintaining food safety standards. This food experience can create extended pathways towards Agritourism where food enthusiasts can experience the journey from farm to table.”

The POETCom Coordinator Jim Pierce said “there is a lot of potential and interests for agritourism in the Pacific with some hotels and organic farms who are POETCom members already venturing into this, with others approaching POETCom. POETCom stands ready to support our current and future members moving forward.”

The talanoa session was the second in the wider Agritourism Experiences webinar series 2021. The series has gathered relevant stakeholders to share their journeys in the agritourism space, particularly in light of the shock to the tourism industry due to COVID-19.

Io and Missy Vakapora of the Cook Islands Organic Association Natura Kui Airani said “the pandemic has garnered significant interest in home gardening the organic way on the island and we have been teaching people basic farming skills. In terms of agritourism, we are now looking into providing AirBnB services with the added value of accommodation located close to an organic garden where lodgers can have the added experience of organic garden tours, tasting, and cooking.” The Vakaporas added, “a local chef on the islands has also been using his platform to promote organic food. He runs a weekly local TV show where he uses organic produce to create three course meals”.

Miss Susana Yalikanacea of the organic island of Cicia in Fiji also shared experiences of how she is coping post-Covid on the island. Communities have been self-sufficient in creating their own virgin coconut and dilo (or tamanu) oils, soaps, and handicrafts that she has successfully sold on Facebook. Susana hopes to show the traditional and organic way of life to tourists both local and international when the opportunity arises. The webinar brought together government officials, agritourism experienced practitioners and enthusiasts, and policymakers from around the Pacific. The Agritourism Experiences series will run monthly until December. POETCom will lead another webinar in September focused on the Pacific Organic Tourism and Hospitality Standard which is the organic standard for agritourism in the Pacific. POETCom is supported by the Australian Government through the Building Prosperity for Women Producers, Processors and Women-Owned Businesses through Organic Value Chains (BPWP) project.

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