Ministry of Agriculture’s Director General, Howard Aru, wishes to see a far stronger collaboration between Agriculture, Tourism and Health Ministries of Vanuatu in driving forward not only the agriculture and tourism linkages, but also the health and nutritional aspects to combat the epidemic of non communicable diseases (NCDs) that are mercilessly killing the lives of the Vanuatu people today.

The Director General made his wish known at a three-day policy setting workshop for improved linkages between Vanuatu’s agriculture, trade and tourism was held in Port-Vila last week, which attracted over 60 stakeholders and experts representing the agriculture, tourism and health sectors from Vanuatu and the wider Pacific region.

The workshop represented months of committed organisation by the Government of Vanuatu and the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation, in collaboration with the Pacific Islands Private Sector Organisation and Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture.

Minister of Agriculture, Matai Seremaiah, in his closing remarks, expressed his “sincere belief that outcomes of this workshop will assist the Government to refocus our policy objectives in order to address key linkages between other primary sectors in order that we derive maximum benefits from Tourism Development”.

“Agri-Tourism provides an excellent opportunity not only for broadening our tourism base by diversifying the visitor experience, but also offers the potential for sustainable and healthy farm experiences and eating healthy food.”

There is a need to maximise the linkages between food and tourism by helping businesses to seize new commercial opportunities. Further investments in food processing technologies are required. Food safety and business development trainings remain indispensable to meet the required quality standards to serve highly competitive markets.

Promoting local chefs as key value-chain actors in stimulating Vanuatu’s economy is another priority. Online platforms, such as Chefs for Development, should be used to promote Vanuatu’s chefs and agribusiness successes amongst those of other Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

Vanuatu was encouraged to enhance its reputation as a country of high quality and healthy food and become the destination of choice for tourists who seek an authentic culinary experience. It was agreed that in order to achieve this goal, the harmonization of Vanuatu’s agriculture, trade, tourism and health policies was needed.

Of special relevance were the information and insights provided by Ena Harvey, Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) agritourism expert, on agritourism linkages in the Caribbean region where trade with hotels as well as rural tourism attractions are well advanced.

Stating that “Vanuatu already has many of the ingredients for success as a food tourism destination,” the IICA Specialist provided information on areas of opportunity where Vanuatu could promote greater consumption of local products based on examples from the Caribbean on Food Awards, restaurant guides and iconic branding to encourage tourists to take products home with them.

Director General Aru said he is reminded of the words of a favourite writer who once said, ‘health is a treasure, of all temporal possessions, it is the most precious’. Simply put, without a healthy workforce, all our development efforts are futile.

More work is needed in a partnership mode and successful business models can be expanded through Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) which support small farmers and rural communities to access new markets, says Isolina Boto, Manager of the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation Brussels Office who is working for many years in agritourism.

The workshop proved to be a great success, and an achievement for Vanuatu, which is aiming to be the first Pacific island to have an Agritourism policy.

Upcoming events such as the 2nd Pacific Agribusiness Forum (August 2016), 1st Vanuatu Week of Agritourism and the 1st Pacific week of Agriculture in 2017 will be further opportunities for Vanuatu’s agritourism sector to share its experiences and expose stakeholders to new industry developments.

In addition, a Brussels Briefing will be held in September to share with the policy audience the successful business models in this area across SIDS.

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