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FAO And European Union Launch A New Project To Transform Agrifood Systems In Fiji, Samoa And Solomon Islands

31 July 2023, Suva – The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the European Union are proud to announce the launch of a new project titled "Sustainable transformation of domestic agrifood systems in Fiji, Samoa, and Solomon Islands." The three-year project, with a funding of EUR 10 million from the European Union, aims to improve the domestic agricultural production in the target countries and the wider Pacific region. The project signing ceremony was held in Suva, Fiji, with the physical presence of representatives from FAO, European Union delegation to the Pacific, project participating countries, as well as potential partners for project implementation.

The project comes as a response to the challenges faced by Fiji, Samoa, and Solomon Islands, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and supply chain disruptions caused by the war in Ukraine. Inflation rates in July 2022 stood at 5.4 percent, 9.5 percent, and 7 percent in Fiji, Samoa, and Solomon Islands, respectively. The high food inflation disproportionately affects the vulnerable segments of the population, leading to increased consumption of unhealthy local and imported foods and further impacting the health of individuals and the domestic agrifood system.

Hon Vatimi Rayalu, Minister for Agriculture and Waterways signed the project agreement on behalf of Fiji and remarked, “I am pleased to see that the EU has again partnered with the UNFAO to implement this 3-year programme, taking advantage of the FAO’s extensive technical expertise, know-how and experience in the Pacific region. I am assured that in addition to technical support from FAO Subregional Office for the Pacific Islands, support will also be rendered from FAO Headquarters in Rome as well the Asia Pacific Regional Office in Bangkok when needed.”

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Speaking at the event, the Ambassador of the European Union to the Pacific, H.E Sujiro Seam said, “Russia’s unjustified war against Ukraine has caused a significant and lasting impact on global food markets. It has contributed to a sharp food price increase worldwide, putting strain on the livelihoods of vulnerable households. The launch of the project today is part of the Europe Union’s response to the global food crisis and will boost local production of healthy foods by promoting innovative and sustainable food systems. Through its design, the project will also contribute to the shared efforts of the Pacific Region and the European Union in the fight against the climate change.”

Mr Thomas Laurent, the Deputy Director General of FAO conveyed his appreciation and support to the project in the Pacific region. He said, “This project is very much needed NOW, with Pacific countries still recovering from the impacts of COVID-19 and impacted by the disruption of global supply chains linked to the war in Ukraine”.

The project will aim to transform agrifood systems and promote sustainability by implementing a three-pronged approach:

One, strengthening the policy and institutional environment: Working closely with governments and key stakeholders, the project will promote the development of an enabling policy environment that fosters sustainable agricultural practices, incentivizes environmentally friendly production methods, promotes innovation and agri-enterprise, and catalyzes effective governance and coordination mechanisms among stakeholders.

Two, enhancing sustainable and community-based production systems: The project will directly engage civil society organisations to reach out to farmers, communities, and local service providers to enhance domestic crop and livestock production. The key aim is to sustainably enhance domestic production and consumption, enhance local value addition, and to reduce import dependence.

Building individual and institutional capacities: The project will empower farmers, extension workers, researchers, policymakers, agripreneurs, and other stakeholders with the necessary knowledge and skills to actively participate at any stage of the selected commodity value chains towards sustainable domestic food production.

Over 2 000 households are expected to directly benefit from the project, while more than 150 enablers, including policy makers, service providers, agribusiness mentors, and extension workers, will be capacitated. Additionally, three agribusiness incubators will be established in the three countries to support rural innovations and enterprises, with a focus on engaging youth and women in the agrifood systems transformation agenda. The project aims to support at least 90 agribusinesses during its lifetime.

Ms Xiangjun Yao, the FAO Subregional Coordinator concluded the ceremony. She said: “The launch of this project marks as a significant milestone on moving the agenda of sustainable and resilient agrifood systems forward in Fiji, Samoa, and Solomon Islands”. She thanked the Hon agriculture ministers from Fiji, Samoa and Solomon Islands for their vision and looked forward to their continued support to the project and overall FAO mission in the region. She committed FAO to the donor and the participating countries with FAO’s quality and timely project implementation. She ended her remarks with a highlight that to achieve the expected objectives and fruitful results, FAO will involve the community based civil society organisations with close guidance of the ministries during the project implementation.

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