Two new initiatives supported through the Australia-Vanuatu partnership are opening up new opportunities for producers, entrepreneurs and communities in TORBA province.

Last week Australia’s High Commissioner to Vanuatu, Sarah deZoeten, joined the President of TORBA Province, Edmond Sovan, the Director of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD), Antoine Ravo, the Director of Energy, Anthony Garae, and other government officials and partners for the official openings of the TORBA Handicraft Centre in Sola and the first-ever market house in Motalava.

These milestones were achieved through the work of the TORBA Skills Centre, part of the Vanuatu Skills Partnership, supported by the Australian Government, in collaboration with Vanuatu’s Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry, Fisheries and Biosecurity (MALFFB); Ministry of Education and Training; Ministry of Tourism, Trade, Industry, Commerce and ni-Vanuatu Business; and Ministry of Climate Change; as well as Torba province and local area councils. All partners were represented at the openings.

“These initiatives are great examples of the joint commitment of Australia and Vanuatu to economic recovery, food security, women’s empowerment, disability inclusion and decentralisation. It has been a privilege to see first-hand the strength of communities in TORBA and what they are achieving in challenging times,” said High Commissioner deZoeten.

The new Handicraft Centre provides the TORBA Handicraft Cooperative (THC), the first formal community-owned company in TORBA, with an office and showroom for their handicrafts. The cooperative’s producers, who receive regular training through the TORBA Skills Centre, are stimulating economic activity by creating some of the most sought-after handicrafts in Vanuatu. Producers come from across the province, including the remote village of Vetimboso and the island of Merelava. Despite the challenges of 2020, the THC recorded a sales growth of 189, with demand for its unique products outstripping supply.

The first-ever market house in Motalava is another demonstration of the Governments of Australia and Vanuatu’s assistance to TORBA province.

The market house construction was coordinated by the TORBA Skills Centre, using local builders. The initiative was supported by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Motalava Area Council. Vanuatu’s Department of Energy provided the market house with a solar renewal energy system through the Barrier Removal for Achieving National Energy Road Map of Vanuatu project, funded by UNDP and the Global Environment Facility.

“The Government of Vanuatu, through the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, is pleased to work with our partner Australia to support these projects which will benefit Torba communities. The Motalava market house is in line with MALFFB’s Small Island and Geographically Disadvantaged Community Strategy.

“It is like a diamond and I know the community will look after it very well,” said DARD Director Ravo.

The new market house provides increased income generation opportunities for farmers and communities in Motalava and increase the island’s food security.

For the first time, local farmers, who have been receiving agricultural skills training through the Torba Skills Centre, will have a central point of sale.

The market house has been designed in line with best practice accessibility guidelines and is available for all people, regardless of disability.

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