Vanuatu, Australia and the United Kingdom launched the first ever ‘Farm to School’ program in Vanuatu, at the Baldwin Lonsdale Memorial School (BLMS) in Vanualava last week.

A delegation including Australian High Commissioner to Vanuatu, Sarah deZoeten, British High Commissioner to Vanuatu, Karen Bell, Director of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD), Antoine Ravo, and Director of the Department of Education Services (DOES), Samuel Katipa, travelled to TORBA province where they launched the new program.

The Farm to School program, which is supported by the governments of Vanuatu, Australia and the UK, connects local farmers and fishermen with the BLMS school to provide school children with access to fresh, nutritious produce.

British High Commissioner Bell said, “We know that over 80 per cent of people in Vanuatu live in rural areas, so it was a great pleasure to launch the Farm to School program, which is supporting rural livelihoods and promoting healthy lives”.

High Commissioner Bell said she was pleased to visit TORBA and learn more about how communities are responding to the twin challenges of COVID-19 and climate change.

Through the TORBA Skills Centre, the Farm to School program provides skills training to farmers and fishermen, ensuring a consistent supply of nutritious fruit, vegetables, eggs and fish. The first group of farmers is from Lisara village on East Vanualava, and the program has already supported development of an organic seed bank, and new crops, including carrots, zucchini, broccoli, capsicum, tomato, herbs and potatoes.

“This is a great example of a strong development partnership achieving good impact. It follows the Gudfala Kaikai Policy (2020-30) which encourages healthy eating for students. MALFFB was pleased to provide an additional 1 million vatu to this partnership, as well as a new tractor to support the initiative and the farmer’s association,” said DARD Director Ravo, on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries, Forestry and Biosecurity (MALFFB).

The program also improves health outcomes for children by increasing their nutritional intake and raising dietary awareness. Through the TORBA Skills Centre, school chefs are increasing their skills and preparing balanced, highly nutritious meals.

“The Farm to School program is a great demonstration of the Australia and Vanuatu partnership. It is achieving outcomes across so many sectors, including education, health, food security and economic recovery. Congratulations to TORBA Province on this wonderful initiative. I look forward to the program being rolled out in other parts of Vanuatu” said Australian High Commissioner Sarah deZoeten.

The program has generated widespread interest and is now being rolled out by the Vanuatu Skills Partnership through the provincial Skills Centres under the Ministry of Education and Training in schools across TAFEA, SANMA and PENAMA.

The Ministry of Education and Training commended the partnership approach that led to the launch of this Program. “MoET would like to see schools across Vanuatu benefit from this partnership. The program assists schools to generate income, while at the same time teaching children about entrepreneurship and cultivating their land. As we celebrate 40 years and our graduation from LDC status, this is a way to become more independent and resilient,” said Director Katipa, on behalf of the Ministry of Education and Training.

Australia has supported establishment of the TORBA Skills Centre through the Vanuatu Skills Partnership in 2014. Since then, the TORBA Skills Centre has been the key coordination mechanism for productive sector activity, leading to significant developments in tourism, agriculture, handicraft and construction.

The Director of the Vanuatu Skills Partnership, Fremden Yanhambath, said “we are very happy the delegation has had the opportunity to see with their own eyes what the power of partnership can achieve. TORBA Skills Centre is a model of cooperation and coordination and is making a real difference in the lives of people across TORBA Province”.

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