Vanuatu hosted its first ever Agritourism Festival from 9-11th November at the Agriculture Complex- Tagabe, in the capital city of Port Vila.
Agriculture and food production are critical to Vanuatu’s prosperity and welfare: for food security and job creation. Given that animal, vegetable and other food products equate to over 82% of the island’s economy, Vanuatu boasts rich agricultural resources. Yet, the country is still heavily reliant on imports, which in 2011 amounted to over 280 million USD (more than four times the amount of exports). Vanuatu, like many other Pacific Island nations, relies on cheap, calorific and low nutritional food imports from the USA and Australasia. This has created a food crisis in the Pacific region which has seen an increase in the rate of diet-related diseases. Obesity rates in the Pacific are among the highest in the world: a staggering 68% of Vanuatu’s population is considered overweight and nearly 20% of adults in the country suffer from diabetes (only surpassed by Nauru with 24.5%).
Resolving this economic and food crisis will not only depend on mobilizing Vanuatu’s agriculture, but also its tourism sector. Vanuatu’s tourism revolves around a large network of restaurants, hotels, resorts and cruise ships. This sector equates to 36% of its GDP. A thriving tourism sector coupled with rich land resources makes Vanuatu the perfect location to promote linkages between farmers and tourist outlets.
The Vanuatu Agritourism Festival 2016 has helped to promote linkages between local agriculture and the tourism sector in order to empower small-scale entrepreneurs in Vanuatu. This process allows local farmers to work directly with hotels or restaurants, in order to supply customers with genuine Vanuatu products and tastes. This combination provides a unique experience for the tourists, sustainability for the local farmers and a healthier lifestyle for the locals. Using tourism to strengthen the domestic agrifood sector on the basis of locally grown produce will help galvanize Vanuatu’s economy while contributing to healthier lifestyles.
The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Trades, Joe Natuman, opened the three-day festival. In attendance were also the Minister of Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry, Fisheries and Biosecurity, Matai Seremiah and the country’s Ambassador to EU, Roy Mickey Joy, as well as many other government ministers and dignitaries. Farmers, chefs and many stakeholders from the private sector, from all over the Pacific region, also took part in the festival’s activities. These included cooking demonstrations by local chefs, displays of local agricultural produce (such as a crowd favourite: Tanna Coffee), food-tasting sessions, livestock shows, competitions and musical acts.
Although still in its infancy, agritourism is one of the fastest growing sectors in the Pacific. Vanuatu is doing especially well since the First Regional Pacific Community Agritourism Week last year, which successfully outlined Vanuatu’s potential for agritourism. Increasing linkages between agriculture and tourism is part of Vanuatu’s Agriculture Sector Policy 2015-2030.
CTA has worked closely with the Government of Vanuatu in developing the agritourism agenda by supporting annual exchanges with the Caribbean experts since 2013 by facilitating the participation of Ministers and experts from Vanuatu to the various Caribbean Week of Agriculture events to learn from the region experience. CTA, PIPSO and SPC co-organised the 1st Pacific Agribusiness Forum in July 2015 on Linking the agrifood sector to tourism-related markets.
From there, the Government of Vanuatu decided to lead the way in setting up a policy on agritourism which will bring the various sectors together (agriculture, trade, tourism, health) and identify Public Private Partnerships to capture more opportunities in tourism markets. CTA supported the process and co-organised with the Government of Vanuatu and PIPSO a Vanuatu Agritourism Policy Setting Workshop in May 2016. Moving fast, the Government of Vanuatu took already a series of actions to promote linkages amongst productive sectors and organised in November the 1st Vanuatu Agritourism Festival to showcase the best of the country.
The Vanuatu Agritourism Festival will be an annual key event and will lead up to next year’s Pacific Week of Agriculture which will also be held in Vanuatu. In an interview after the festival, Howard Aru, Vanuatu’s Director General of Agriculture, said “I am overwhelmed and very happy about the outcome of this event.” He explained that despite challenges in the past “Today will go down in Vanuatu’s history”.
CTA supported the media coverage and supported its promotion in region and across the ACP. Around 5 media reporters from the SPC (Pacific Community) covered the event via twitter using the hashtag #VanuatuAF2016.
We reached an audience of nearly 10 million followers from the ACP countries.
Find out more:
Vanuatu Agritourism Policy Setting Workshop
1st Pacific Agribusiness Forum: Linking the Agrifood sector to the Tourism-related markets
2nd Pacific Agribusiness Forum: Linking the Agrifood sector to the local markets
Chefs for Development
Brussels Briefing 46: Agribusiness Development & Tourism Markets in SIDS
Brussels Briefing 46: Howard Aru, Director General of Agriculture, Ministry of Agriculture, Vanuatu
Brussels Briefing 46: H.E Ambassador Roy Mickey Joy