A regional initiative to improve the competitiveness of small producers in the Pacific coconut industry, strengthen regional integration and intensify production has been launched by the European Union and the Pacific Community (SPC).
The EURO 3.5 million (FJD 8 million) Coconut Industry Development Project (CIDP) will primarily address regional policy integration, capacity building and strengthening links in the value chain. Its steering committee meets today for the first time, in Nadi, Fiji, with on-ground activities due to commence next month.
The European Union Ambassador to Fiji and the Pacific, H.E. Andrew Jacobs said: ''Across the Pacific Islands, a coconut palm is considered to be the tree of life, contributing to food security, health promotion and sustainable livelihoods. New interest in coconut products, such as virgin coconut oil, is providing opportunities for growth in the coconut industry and the EU is very proud to support the development of the industry in the Pacific.''
The three-year initiative will implement pilot projects in selected countries with the aim to improve the livelihood of smallholder farmers locally and provide lessons learnt regionally, contributing to the development of the regional coconut industries. An amount of EURO 1.75 million is available for the pilot projects.
According to the SPC Team Leader for the project, Karen Mapusua, the pilots for Samoa and Vanuatu will result from a competitive selection process that will identify the most appropriate enterprises.
“The national-level mechanism to check Expressions of Interest will ensure that activities align with the respective national development priorities for the sector."
“A Technical Advisory Group comprising an independent panel of experts will assess all submissions based on key eligibility and selection criteria and draw up a shortlist of prospective pilot activities,” Ms Mapusua said.
Training and awareness programmes will be also developed along with a manual on Coconut Risks Management and Mitigation for the Pacific Region for farmers, processors and other stakeholders identified in the value chain.
The EU and SPC envisage assisting at least eight government representatives from Pacific Island countries in upgrading and harmonising their national strategies in line with regional policy and there will be opportunities for trade shows.
Another expected benefit of the project will be the creation of a comprehensive database of businesses, projects, farmers’ groups and NGOs involved in developing activities in coconut production and processing diversification in 15 Pacific Island countries to facilitate links between value chain actors, for example, connecting growers with traders, and buyers with exporters.
This latest project will complement other work by SPC, through its Centre for Pacific Crops and Trees, and partners Bioversity International, the International Coconut Genetic Resources Network (COGENT) and governments in the region to upgrade and broaden the new South-Pacific International Coconut Genebank, to conserve Pacific coconut diversity and livelihoods.