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REGIONAL MEETING OF
HEADS OF AGRICULTURE AND FORESTRY SERVICES (HOAFS)
Opening Remarks by Deputy Director General of the Pacific Community
Dr Audrey Aumua
Greetings from the Pacific Community to the Honorable Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries of Samoa, Afioga Lopaoo Natanielu Mua, Heads of Agriculture and Forestry Services (HOAFS) and representatives from our member countries, development partners, technical partner agencies, civil society agencies, and representatives of private and public sector agencies. Our sincere appreciation goes the Government of Samoa for all their generosity and hard work in hosting this second Pacific Week of Agriculture and the heartfelt welcome we are receiving.
I would also like to acknowledge the attendance of many representatives and observers from partner organisations, including but not limited to: EU, WB, FAO, IFAD, ACIAR, Landcare NZ, GIZ, CSIRO, ICC, CTA, PHAMA PLUS, Kalang Consultants and members from the national and International Research and Academic Community; PIANGO, PIFON.
It is about two years ago now since we met in Port Vila during the first Pacific Week of Agriculture that was hosted by the Government of Vanuatu. It is a true honour that the Samoan Authorities proposed to host the Second PWA that will run up to 4th October with the theme of enhancing partnerships for building resilience in the Pacific.
As we all are aware an integral part of the PWA is the HoAFS Meeting and the Joint FAO SPC Pacific Agriculture Ministers’ Meeting. While the PWA provides us the opportunity to learn from each other on prevailing issues and programmes, the HOAFS in particular will allows us to reflect a bit on what emanated from the discussions during the first PWA on how we were able to put collective responses to some of the issues.
You will agree Directors, that key threats to the very existence of the Pacific Community are climate change; erosion food systems and their consequent public health implications; the increased incidences of pests and diseases and continued pervasive barriers to trade – some of them climate change related - others due to the context we operate in.
I am proud to say that with your support, SPC has been able to gear up to respond to the call for more diverse and resilient climate smart production systems. I am sure that the Director will provide you a few examples on these. However, I would like to specifically mention the strategic role of our genetic resources centre - CePaCT in assisting the region in adapting better to climate change and through its Seeds for Life program increasing the opportunities for countries to have access to healthy seed.
At our last meeting members raised concerns about the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle Guam biotype. Since then, we have assisted national efforts in both the Solomon Islands and in Vanuatu to curb the spread of this pest. We also worked with our partners in establishing a regional strategic plan to guide the research agenda, increasing training to national biosecurity services, developing guidelines for phytosanitary measures, and providing extensive coordination and technical assistance leveraging financial support for a Pan-Pacific coordinated response to the plight of the CRB.
Increasingly the Division has been working with you – both at national and regional levels on strengthening requisite biosecurity mechanisms, and having in place a coordinated approach to preparing for biosecurity threats that would have an impact on our trade relationships in the region. Over the last two years we have seen an increasing interest and budding partnerships in building capacities on biosecurity and fundamental sanitary and phyto-sanitary systems and standards that are required for effective trade.
The above are just a few examples of how LRD as your catalyst can assist you both at regional and country level not only in providing technical – research for development services but also to address country specific needs on a more bilateral basis.
I would like to point out here that, over the years, LRD has built up core competencies in thematic areas that are unique in the Pacific – even at global level - for example the work on genetic resources, Participatory Guarantee Systems for organic certification, the ground-breaking soils work on atolls with our esteemed partners. SPC is proud that these services are available to the region.
I call on you to tap into these and other potentials for building resilience and improving the food and nutrition security and that you explore pathways to overcome some of the most pressing challenges and establish long term integrated impacts on your respective SDGs. To do so we need technical and financial support and more importantly we need to work together.
From this 7th Heads of Agriculture and Forestry Services meeting we hope to bring you up to date with the progress of the past 2 years and to seek final endorsement of the LRD Business plan that has been developed and refined based on your feedback and input. In particular we hope to engage with you on the formulation of our cross cutting integrated programmes which will help us together address the pressing needs of the region such as improved health outcomes, healthy and resilient ecosystems and improved biosecurity and safe trade. We also will be seeking your engagement in the International Year of Plant Health in 2020.
Our presence today demonstrates our commitment to working in partnership. The cornerstone of the Pacific Community is the recognition that we are stronger with One Voice, and that we can be more efficient and effective when we choose to work together to achieve regional outcomes which will benefit us all.
The ongoing climate negotiations and the current Climate Action Summit in New York are important examples of our strength as a united region in tackling the critical issues.
On behalf of the Pacific Community, I invite you to actively work with us, steering and regularly conferring, so that we strengthen partnerships and multi-lateral initiatives to maximise the benefits of our many programmes and projects for the benefit of all of our citizens.
I thank you again for traveling so far, and thank our gracious hosts for providing us with these wonderful facilities and the hosting of the PWA, HOAFS, and the Ministerial. I relay also the greetings and thanks of the SPC DG, Dr Colin Tukuitonga, and wish you the best for your deliberations this week.