Agri-exports can enhance islands’ livelihoods


Enhancing agricultural product exports from the islands could add greatly to Pacific islanders’ incomes, but governments need to do more to create an enabling environment to achieve this, according to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).<!--more-->

The comments were made at a side event titled “More than just cocoa and coconuts: investing in rural people, developing agriculture in small islands” at the Third UN Small Islands Developing States conference in Apia, Samoa last week.

IFAD facilitators at the event said Pacific governments needed to empower schools, rural communities, youth groups, businessmen and other NGOs and urge them to implement those strategic plans and policies seriously that can improve rural livelihoods and increase foreign earnings thereby improving the small island economies.

The speakers pointed to a number of success stories that have made a significant contribution to rural livelihoods and foreign exchange earnings for small island economies. These could well be emulated with some encouragement. Among those mentioned were the ‘Blue Mountain Coffee’ from Jamaica, ‘Tanna Coffee’, cocoa and spices from Vanuatu and Tahitian lime, virgin coconut oil and nonu products from Samoa.

Among measures suggested and recommendations made were to provide more assistance from technical people; create government partnerships; encourage and finetune homegrown technologies, develop and expand market opportunities and provide additional financing assistance from the donor agencies. In addition, there was a need to change the mindset of both policy makers and the rural people.

One of IFAD’s approaches is to explore ways to attract private sector investment by reducing the transaction costs of working with individual smallholder producers at the bottom of the economic pyramid by helping them to organise themselves into groups and cooperatives, providing negotiation skills and building trust while auctioning public funds to private investors to engage in public or semi-public goods development.

Notably, in 2009 IFAD revised its grant policy to provide direct grant support to private sector entities or to contribute to multi-donor trust funds that provide financing to private companies.