There is a lot potential to develop organic farming in the OCTs to bring about more sustainable growth. It is good for the environment, promotes the stewardship of future generations of farmers over their land, it adds value to products, boosts the tourism industry and brings health benefits to society.
Many entities are involved in the organic farming value chain. Farmers, transport providers, local chefs, hotels, policy-makers, the media and the ICT industry all have roles to play.
A ‘farm-to-table’ programme set up by the Women in Business Development, a Samoa-based non-governmental organisation, has been at the centre of the movement towards organic agriculture in the Pacific island state and says other small island states can draw on its success.
Likewise, to develop eco-tourism and innovation in tourism-related culinary excellence, “from tree to plate,” in 2010, the European Union co-financed an innovative local culinary initiative for the H.L. Stott Community College Culinary School Center in Paraquita Bay, Tortola.
The Samoa model covers all fronts. It helps farmers achieve organic production and certification and acts as a conduit for sourcing markets for products. Around 60 per cent of organic farms on the Pacific island are now certified organic. It assists farmers with the delivery of organic produce baskets and in meeting consumer demand for high-end, socially conscious, environmentally-friendly products such as organic virgin coconut oil, coffee and dried bananas.
The programme understands the grading system necessary for consistent quality and quantity. It is building supply links between farmers and hoteliers and is using television to build public confidence in recipes based on locally-grown food prepared by local chefs. For tourists, it means a better experience of Samoan culture.
Organic certification opens up niche, international markets, bringing greater potential for income-generation. The way forward is for the whole nation to go organic in the next 10 years.
Regular evaluation of the farm-to-table programme are a vital part of the model. On a weekly basis, there should be assessments of the number of crops ordered, by which restaurants, problems encountered and how these were dealt with.
The next step is focusing on bringing more farmers on board, increasing delivery days and improving transport systems, such as a refrigerated truck for pick-ups. Another step is to explore greater such as mobile phone apps, including a farm bank app through which farmers can check their bank balance and their year-to-date earnings.
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