Pacific Organic & Ethical Trade Community


Posted On: March 10, 2021

In a time where gender equality was unheard of, Dr Sylvia Cornu-Mercky was making waves in her homeland in New Caledonia.

After establishing herself in the science world, Sylvia began community work as the head of the Rural Development Department in charge of agriculture, forestry and rearing at the Loyalty Islands Province. Thus started a journey of building bridges with and within communities. For Sylvia and Loyalty Islands, this led to the creation and establishment of an agriculture support centre called Centre d’Appui au Développement Rural Loyaltien (Loyaltian Rural Development Center) that facilitated the links between science, field applications; service provider and technical support for development of projects for farmers; and the appropriation of research by Loyalty Islands farmers.

Further to this Sylvia was also instrumental in the publishing of the Environment and Agriculture Notebooks; containing knowledge on sustainable local farming practices that aligned with nature (in particular agroforestry methods) and also case studies from around the globe of unsustainable farming practices and its adverse impacts on the environment. These notebooks were translated in the 3 languages of Loyalty Island (“Drehu”, “Nengone” and “Iaaï”).

But that was not all. Sylvia also helped in the creation of Vanilla House – a processing and production unit for locally grown vanilla. This unit now also provides eco-tours tours whilst sharing traditional and processing knowledge of vanilla production from the farm to the table.  Sylvia also co-created Packing Units of Agricultural Products to facilitate transport and marketing. And also helped local youth in kick-starting start farming projects on customary owned lands.

In 2007, Sylvia then moved to become the head of  Interprovincial Association of Agricultural Centers (AICA). This enable Sylvia to expand her vision of an environmentally respectful and sustainable agriculture to two other provinces of New Caledonia. The AICA merged in 2013 with other structures to become Technopole. Sylvia is currently the Director of the Land Resources Division of Technopole, in charge of 4 centers: CPA (beekeeping), CREA (field crops), CTT (tropical tubers) and CTEM (vegetables crops).

It was also interesting to note that after this community empowerment and passion for holistic farming practices introduced by Sylvia, Loyalty Island farmers are now also users of the Pacific Organic Standard developed by POETCom. It was also in New Caledonia that the first PGS group was established and approved in the Pacific (during the SPC member countries meeting in 2009) and Biocaledonia is the organic association that oversees all New Caledonia organic farming groups. Sylvia is now part of Biocaledonia certification committee representing Technopole.

When asked on what advice Dr Sylvia has for young aspiring women, she said “We must dare to go forth, we must not fear making mistakes. Making mistakes is part of the way, we have the freedom of being wrong too, just like men. However, we should not lose feminine qualities such as humility, empathy, and good listening. These are our strengths as women.“

About PGS:

The Participatory Guarantee System is a locally focused organic assurance system aimed at providing credible organic guarantee to consumers seeking organic produce through the direct participation of farmers and consumers in the organic guarantee process. The Pacific Ethical Trade and Community (POETCom) community programme of the Pacific Community manages and the use of the organic mark known as ‘Organic Pasifika’ which is obtained through the application of the PGS system.

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