Vila Times

Tanna Preparing to Host National Week of Agriculture

Tanna Preparing to Host National Week of Agriculture
Tanna Preparing to Host National Week of Agriculture
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The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry, Fisheries and Biosecurity (MALFFB) in partnership with other government departments and their key stakeholders will be hosting what use to be National Agriculture Festival now the ‘National Week of Agriculture’ (NWA) in August this year on Tanna at Laminu Stadium.
At its meeting this week the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry, Fisheries and Biosecurity (MALFFB) Executive has approved the change of name from National Agriculture Festival to National Week of Agriculture to align with the Pacific Week of Agriculture.
This year’s event will be the second National Week of Agriculture to be hosted by TAFEA province.
Preparations are well underway towards this national event. A Technical Working Group (TWG) has been established to oversee ground preparations. The TWG comprises of all departments under MALFFB, other line departments like Trade, Industry and key stakeholders on Tanna.
Acting Principal Officer South (PO), Peter Iesul said “Currently, the TWG is organising farmers to prepare themselves to display their local products during the festival.
“The week-long agriculture festival will include visitations to some main farms on Tanna.
“One of the farms in Lenakel area (Tanalkut farm), is an irrigation demonstration plot that the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) Tanna Officers are currently working on as an innovation on irrigation as water is very important in crop production targeting especially during off-season period from November to April when the weather is not favourable for vegetables to grow well thus leading to shortage of at local market supplies in Tanna and through-out the country as well.
“The aim of the irrigation demonstration plot is to set up drip and sprinkler systems and the establishment of a greenhouse or tunnel house so farmers visiting the irrigation demonstration plot can replicate similar systems back at their farms,” Mr Iesul said.
Other sites include Napil and Nasi Tuan rural training centres.
Acting PAO Iesul continued, “Nasi Tuan is venturing into processing of peanuts and other nuts while Napil training centre provides opportunity for young people to train and invest in agriculture to assist in production and engaging young people in agriculture business.
“DARD Tanna officers and TWG are working with Napil and Nasi Tuan rural training centres to ensure farmers have the opportunity to visit these centres.
“The mapping of the proposed venue being Laminu Stadium has been evaluated to indicate the locations of booths for government departments, partners and key stakeholders.
“Discussions are underway for a rodeo show to be included during the agriculture festival.
“The initial plan is to have it (the rodeo show?) at the volcanic plains in Whitesands but the TWG is yet to confirm considering the issue of distance to the main business activities in Blackman Town.
“The proposed activities of the national event will reflect on culture and traditions, organic agriculture production, resilience and improving people’s livelihood. A theme is yet to be decided.
“TWG will liaise with Nikoletan council of chiefs for the Toka dance to conclude the activities of the NWA,” Acting PO South added.
During the past few months, the dry season on Tanna has impacted yam production which is the traditional crops that people of Tanna are looking forward to showcase during the NAF.
“When visiting local farmers on West Tanna, I noticed that there are still some yams that famers will be able to display.
“Vegetable production in South Tanna is still maintained. We are expecting huge quantity of vegetables to be-showcased during the NAF. Tanna Island and especially this southern part of Vanuatu produces most of the vegetables that does not grow well in other provinces like carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and other vegetables,” Iesul said.
“Farmers on Tanna are very excited about this national event.
“An awareness team comprising of government officers, key stakeholders and partners will be touring TAFEA province to provide information on the NAF and also using the media to communicate to other farmers that are unreachable in TAFEA province and the other five provinces of Vanuatu to unite farmers as they prepare for this national agriculture event.”
“The NWA is an important event as it is a platform where farmers come together to display their local products, share experiences and exchange new ideas amongst themselves, get exposed to new innovations, new technologies and other important information on the agriculture value chain.
“During the NWA, the MALFFB and Ministry of Trade will work together to provide technical knowledge on the production side of agriculture and its possible market access, processing and value adding.
“The NWA is an avenue where farmers need to be educated on who and what is involved in the value chain.
“Who is doing production, who is responsible for marketing and processing and value adding, linking farmers to our partners and None Government Organisations (NGOs).
“NWA also provides an opportunity where farmers that already have the knowledge (traditional knowledge and science) of new cultivation technology or new farming systems can share their experience with other farmers while keeping some focus to the adaptation of the impacts of climate change and disasters.
“Vanuatu is one of the countries vulnerable to natural disasters so farmers need to adapt to new farming systems to be more resilient and resistant to the changes that are happening.
“National events like the agriculture festival also enable the MALFFB to evaluate and assess the work of extension services in their localities to determine if it is functioning well or adjustment is needed for improvement.
“Usually DARD is working closely with the Vanuatu Agriculture Research and Technical Centre (VARTC) on Santo who produce new and improved varieties of crops and new farming techniques and technology which are passed on to farmers so this is the time to see whether the farmers are practicing these new technologies in their communities. This will reflect on the production of farmers,” Acting PO South, Iesul, said.
Farmers of TAFEA province are prepared to host this national event.
“When we talk about agriculture, it is the life line of the people of Tanna. As part of preparation toward NWA, two tractors at Isangel station are being fully utilized by farmers to plough large areas for farming.
“Two tractors is not enough so maybe another tractor needs to be shipped to Tanna upon request from farmers. This shows that the farmers are preparing themselves for the NWA.
“I encourage farmers from other provinces to be ready. We have extension officers in all the provinces so if you need more information, talk to the Assistant Agriculture Officer in your areas to assist you.
“We want this show to be for farmers that are involved in mass production of root crops and vegetables, not farmers who produce small quantities and bringing only a few product to the festival.
“We are promoting commercial farming. We want to encourage farmers to shift from subsistence farming to semi-commercial farming to commercial farming looking at other options of processing and value adding,” Iesul concluded. (Photos: Tanalkut farm after clearing/ Tanna MALFFB Team at Tanalkut Farm, Lenakel)