Preparations are well underway on the island of Emae towards the Shepherds Mini Agriculture Show (SMAS) that will be held on Tuesday 18 to Friday 21 June 2019.

SMAS 2019 Media volunteer, Jack Matariki, has travelled to Emae last week on a family trip and was able to witness and capture the progress of the work of preparation of the SMAS 2019 on Emae as of last Friday 7th June. He also participated in the meeting of the Local Organizing Committee (LOC).

Mr Matariki attended for the first time the briefing of the LOC and the Coordinating Team from Port Vila on Friday.

“I was impressed by the level of work that has been accomplished to date, and the collaboration of committee members, the vast expertise and experience provided to the LOC by MALFFB coordinators from Vila Executive Officer (EO), Alfred Bani, and Principal Fisheries Development officer, George Amos,” said Mr Matariki.

He observed a lot of capacity building for the LOC members. The coordinators directed the discussions, ensuring that whatever was discussed was properly framed and action plans put in place rather than just a lot of talking which helped the committee members in their discussions and decisions.

The committee was not simply organizing an event, members were also learning new organizational skills on how to organize especially such events, so they will be able to organize more events in the future without officers in Port Vila.

Achievements from last week include the opening of the Operations Room (OR) and lighting of the SMAS 2019 fire at the SMAS site. This was a huge achievement as it provided a tangible element of success for the people on the island as well as for the chiefs to enable them to take this event more seriously and to make their commitment. The fire was also a very symbolic gesture, as it represents a place of warmth, gathering, as well as a place of cooking and discussions of important issues. Chiefs came each day to the OR, as their presence gave a much encouragement to the community members who were working on the site. At the end of each day, the chiefs have a few shells of kava before they were dropped off again at their respective villages.

The fencing for the livestock was also completed. The livestock officers who have been on the island for a few weeks now were able to complete the structures with the help of volunteers from villages, ready to receive the animals from the villages, and from the other five islands (Tongoa, Buninga, Tongariki, Makira and Mataso).

A facelift for the permanent stage reflects the involvement of the communities on Emae Island as the roofing was completed. A few weeks had gone by with slow progress, but since the two coordinators from Vila arrived on Emae, more volunteers from Marae village were selected and assigned to work with contractor Atavimarata George Edward. This help was immensely needed, because by Friday last week, the roof was completed. The floor was completed on Monday, and final painting and decoration were done.

SMAS Media Volunteer Matariki reported that roadworks have picked up again last Friday after the arrival of machinery via MV Mahalia on Friday June 7th. The ‘grader’ started the works from the venue site, and by Saturday morning, the stretch of the Sulua plantation was near completion. Principal Fisheries Development Officer Amos is working with the road workers and directing them to work on specific sections of the road as priority due to the short time-frame.

Mr Matariki added that this week work will be done on stalls/booths. The final work on the stalls are expected to be finalised on Monday and Tuesday. All communities have worked to do final cleaning, decoration and setting up of tent/stalls for roofs.

Farmers on Emae were given the time to prepare themselves on Wednesday this week to work in their gardens to prepare their produce, build cases to carry their yams and build cages for the animals. The vehicles will begin to go around each village on Thursday and Friday to collect the farmers’ produce. All animals from Emae should be at the venue by Friday 14th. Security volunteers have been appointed to guard the venue as of Friday 14th and during the whole duration of the event.

Rubbish disposal is also important during the SMAS 2019 event. Mr Matariki said the LOC had decided that each village will weave four coconut baskets each and bring to the Operation Room. Each day, security officers will place a few baskets around the venue for show participants to put their rubbish. At the end of each day, these officers will collect the baskets of rubbish and put them in a rubbish bit that has already been dug next to the cattle fence. Fresh baskets will be place at the beginning of each day.

Food Health Standards and handling of food is also essential during huge events like SMAS. Mr Matariki said the Acting CEO of Vanuatu Bureau of Standards (VBS), Ruth Amos, has confirmed that an officer from her section will run a one-day workshop on basic food preparation and handling standards for all those who will be selling food as well as kava during SMAS 2019 activities.

Mr Matariki said there will be a rehearsal of the opening, especially the parade, today Thursday 13th June at 3pm. Young pathfinders from the SDA church will be leading the march.

It was revealed at the meeting that 200 persons from Port Vila, especially from the two ministries and other government departments, will be participating in the SMAS 2019 and will begin to arrive from Monday 10th onwards.

The ceremony for the opening and handing over of the permanent stage will take place this week.

Farmers from the other islands will begin arriving on Monday June 17th. These will be welcomed by the host villages and LOC members at Sulua Bay. They will be transported to the venue and register themselves and receive their name-tags and SMAS T-shirts at the Operation Room. They will then be transported to their respective host villages were they will receive a formal welcome by the village with salusalus and words of welcome by the chief before they are shown their host families. It was agreed that all the farmers be given their welcome as they arrive, and only the officials will be given welcome during the opening.

The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) acknowledges the Chiefs and people of Emae for the preparation done so far to host this inaugural event. DARD appreciates the updates provided by SMAS Media Volunteer, Mr Matariki, on behalf of the LOC.

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