The Government of Fiji hosted the Seventh Regional Meeting of the Pacific Heads of Agriculture and Forestry Services (PHOAFS), held virtually from 25 – 27 August with partners the Pacific Community (SPC), Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and the Fiji Ministries of Agriculture and Forestry.
The biennial meeting worked to reconnect the region and revitalise engagement with key partners to blaze a trail for agriculture and forestry in the Pacific, in addition to bringing SPC member countries into the conversation to provide guidance to SPC’s Land Resources Division and FAO in regard to the agencies’ work priorities in agriculture and forestry over the coming year.
Fijian Ministry of Agriculture, Permanent Secretary, Ritesh Dass said agriculture and forestry underpinned the livelihoods of many people across the region and accounted for a significant share of export income for the majority of Pacific countries.
“It is vital that we understand how climate change will affect these sectors and what we can do to manage these emerging impacts. The devastating impact of Tropical Cyclones in the Pacific clearly demonstrates the potential consequences of the increased intensity of extreme weather events. Therefore, it is essential that we identify measures to limit the impact of such events and ensure that food security and livelihoods are maintained,” Dass said.
This year’s meeting took a deep dive into the state of Pacific agriculture and forestry, and advanced research strategies and projects resilient to the region’s greatest challenges. Updates and future plans for major LRD programmes and databases were discussed, in addition to regional agriculture and forestry architecture and strategies and a regional research agenda for the coming years.
The FAO Subregional Coordinator for the Pacific Islands, Xiangjun Yao said the PHOAFS offers a window of opportunity to reflect and reimagine the Pacific’s Agriculture and Forestry sectors’ role in creating resilient, healthier and more equitable food systems.
The meeting occurred as a severe COVID-19 outbreak continues to consume Fiji, with other countries in the region are also battling ongoing transmission. “Despite the many COVID-19 barriers, the Pacific has persevered,” said Karen Mapusua, SPC Land Resources Division Director. “I am looking forward to turning what we discussed this week into action in our fields and forests throughout the region, as well as showing at the upcoming UN Global Food System Summit that the Pacific’s management and innovation in these sectors are fruitful not only for the region but offer an exemplary standard for the world.”
The meeting’s final day looked forward, offering wide-ranging discussions on food systems for health and nutrition and building climate resilience for agriculture and forestry. The Agriculture and Forestry Ministers agenda was agreed for their next meeting that will be held as part of the Pacific Week of Agriculture and Forestry next year and provided a statement of intent for partnership, resources and building a stronger foundation for land use in the region as the COVID-19 pandemic diminishes.