Pacific Organic & Ethical Trade Community


Posted On: November 23, 2015

Photo: His Excellency Ambassador Jacobs 

Passionate organic farming advocates claimed victory at the Pacific’s first debate on organic farming held in Suva, Fiji on October 20.

The positive side included young Tailevu province farmer Andrew Weleilakeba, founder of the Fiji Rural Integrated Enterprises Development (FRIEND) Sashi Kiran and the President of Organic International (IFOAM) Andre Leu.

Opposing the idea of ‘organic farming feeding the Pacific’ Afamasaga Toleafoa the chair of the Pacific Island Farmers Organisation Network teamed up with Professor Randy Thaman of the University of the South Pacific and commercial farmer Wah Sing Yee. 

The debate, held at the Japan ICT Lecture Theatre of the University of the South Pacific from 6pm to 8pm attracted a mixed crowd of farmers, academics, agriculture farming students, government agriculture officers, members of the public and the media.

Over 100,000 people were also reached through tweets delivered to their twitter streams thanks to an active online campaign team covering the debate.

The debate was also live streamed with global audiences having the opportunity to ask questions of the debators. Click on this link to watch the whole debate:

Who will win? – seemed to be the big question of the weeks leading up to the day, and more telling so on the night.

However, debate organisers the Pacific Organic and Ethical Trade Community (POETCom), housed within the Pacific Community’s European Union funded ‘Increasing Agriculture Commodities and Trade’ project said it wasn’t really about who won.

POETCom Coordinator Karen Mapusua said the emphasis was on putting agriculture back on the table as an important issue for discussion.

“Farming is central to the Pacific way of life but in spite of this and its obvious important to health, food security and climate change in our highest level meetings in the Pacific, agriculture is often not discussed,” Ms Mapusua said.

“In relation to food security, non-communicable diseases, climate change, in fact in all aspects of sustainable development we should be talking about agriculture.

“The important thing is not who wins but that issues are being put on the table and being discussed and not just by policy makers but by consumers, farmers, the person on the street.”

Mapusua said discussions around agriculture are even more critical with local food productions dropping across the Pacific, agriculture contributions to gross domestic product declining and now the added challenges caused by climate change.

Head of the European Union delegation to the Pacific Ambassador Andrew Jacobs opened the debate.

“The EU is a strong supporter of agriculture sector in the pacific and also supporting development of organic in the Pacific,” he said.

“EU is very proud to support the POETCom vision ‘organics and ethical trade will be the key contributors to sustaining our culture and communities, improving farmers’ livelihoods and people’s health.

“The EU supports the vision and we want it to be fully realised around the region.

Earlier in the day, Mr Leu featured on an organic breakfast show that was aired live from organic Ranadi Plantations in Deuba, outside Suva. DVDS of the show are now available at a cost.


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