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Apia, SAMOA – October 2, 2019: 10pm (Nuku’alofa Times): The land is where life is.

That line has become more apparent here in Apia this week.

Farmers, heads of Agriculture and Forestry divisions from the region and Ministers have this week been deliberating on issues that affect agriculture in the region.

The discussions have gone hand in hand with side events.

That formed the 2nd Pacific Agriculture Week program.

Today the Samoa Agriculture and Fisheries Show got underway, bringing together farmers from around Samoa.

Partners, civil societies and private sector members are also involved in the program.

Tonga is also included, with a team from the Ministry of Agriculture in Nuku’alofa arriving with a container load of watermelons, sweet potatotes and giant taro (kape).

Bringing all these stakeholders together this week is important, especially when issues that threaten the survival of our agriculture sector are increasing.

Climate change, invasive species or pests and the sometimes unpredictable policies that our policy makers put in place all affect the agriculture sectors in the region.

Market availability has also played a role in the interest of our people to return to farming and toil the land.

But there is the undeniable fact that land holds the key to our survival as Pasifika people.

And we need to get our young people to be interested in working the land.

I had the chance to meet up with Samoan cocoa farmer Jimmy Tofa (left) and PHAMA Plus’ Paula Mosa’ati at the Agriculture and Fisheries Show today. Photo: NUKU’ALOFA TIMES

PHAMA Plus Tonga manager Paula Mosa’ati, who is here also, said more efforts must be put into getting young people to work the land.

“The land is where life is,” he said.

“We need to get young people involved as they are our future.”

Mr Mosa’ati said alot of technology and funding is going into agriculture now, making things easier than when it was 30 years ago.

His sentiments were echoed by top Samoan taro farmer Sala Sagato Tuiafiso.

The former meteorologist said he got tired of the office job and returned “to be a 100 percent farmer”.

Speaking to the members of the media at his Tanumalala/Tasitoo-uta Farm, Mr Sagato said the land is where life is.

“The land gives us everything we need,” he said.

Mr Sala Sagato speaking to the media at his farm this morning. Photo: TALEI TORA

“I left my office job because I wanted to get back into farming, knowing full well that the land will give me what I need if I work it.”

He has 185 hectares of land.

His Saints Agriculture Produce and Export business has been a major player in the agriculture sector here in Samoa.

Cocoa farmer Jimmy Tofa says it is important for Pacific Islanders to get back into farming the land.

He is based in New Zealand but has a farm with his family here in Samoa.

“We started with planting 1,000 cocoa plants three years ago,” he said.

“Now we are working on the farm to ensure that we can harvest well.

“It is important for us to get back into farming. This is where the life is for us islanders.”

Samoa’s Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Hon Lopaoo Natanielu Mua told Heads of Agriculture and Forestry Services on Tuesday that it was important for them to work with farmers and know their needs.

Hon Mua is a farmer himself.

Baskets of local fruits at the show here in Apia. Photo: JEAN PIERRE NIPTIK

“I urge you to have the implementers and farmers in mind when you are discussing the main objectives or expected outcomes,” he said.

He told the Nuku’alofa Times later that it is important for regional governments to ensure that their people utilise the land.

“There are many opportunities now and we need to make use of those,” he said.

“The region needs to ensure that we have the ability to be sustainable and have food security.

“The land is our answer and we need to work it.”

The message is therefore clear for the Pacific – we need to work the land and get our young people involved.

That will ensure sustainable agriculture for us all!

It will also help in our meeting Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 1,2, 3 and 15 – which covers No Poverty (SDG1), Zero Hunger (SDG2), Good Health and Wee Being (SDG3) and Life on Land (SDG15).

At the same time it will meet our national and regional commitments to the SAMOA PATHWAY.

That is the Small Island Development States (SIDS) Accelerated Modalities of Action (S.A.M.O.A) Pathway.

It is an international framework that was developed as the outcome of the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS Conference) held on 1-4 September 2014 in Apia, Samoa.

Note: Iliesa Tora is a participant at the ACIAR and ABC International Development  ‘Celebrating Agriculture in the News’ Masterclass, supported by Australian AID.

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