Responding to questions about agritourism

329 Hits

Dear Editor,

 

Re: Agritourism Development for Samoa 

I refer to news items, editorial and opinions reported in your Sunday 18/11/2018, Monday 19/11/2018 and today’s editions of your newspaper, and I wish to correct and clarify some of the misinformation and misreporting therein. 

As we all know, Agritourism development concept and drive for Samoa is not a new idea that was born a few years ago. In the late 1990s, the Food and Agriculture Organisation coordinated national consultations involving key stakeholders in the agriculture sector and tourism industry, to formulate a strategy to strengthen the linkage between the two sectors in Samoa, especially in the area of improved local production of vegetables and other crops in terms of quality and safety, sustained supplies and price stability. The reasoning behind the consultations was to explore a potentially viable partnership arrangement between the key stakeholders of the two sectors to benefit our farmers by including more local produce onto dinner tables of hotel restaurants, and connecting farmers directly with hoteliers to reduce misunderstanding in terms of supply and demand of the local vegetables and crops. This would also help reduce our annual food import bill with a significant proportion of food and food products being imported to supply and service our tourism industry food related needs. We have been observing since then a lot of positive impacts of this partnership drive as a result of those consultations. 

In July 2015, Fiji hosted the first Pacific Agribusiness Forum organised by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), Pacific Islands Private Sector Organization (PIPSO) and Pacific Community (SPC) on “Linking the agrifood sector to the tourism related markets”. The forum aimed at strengthening the agriculture sector through agribusiness development and the identification of new market opportunities such as the tourism related markets. In August 2016, Samoa hosted the second Pacific Agribusiness Forum organised by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), South Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO), CTA, and PIPSO on “Linking the agrifood sector to the local markets for economic growth and improved food and nutrition security”. The forum discussed lessons learned from successful agribusiness models in linking farmers and value chain actors to local, regional and tourism related markets in the Pacific, and reviewed the necessary inputs for realising better organised, integrated and competitive value chains and clusters in the agriculture and agribusiness sectors through skills development, finance and investment, data and information services and favourable policies. 

In close collaboration with CTA, PIPSO and IFAD, STA coordinated the first Agritourism Policy Setting Workshop for Samoa held in December 2016. The workshop was focussed on establishing an Agritourism Policy that will support the local businesses in not only serving tourism-related markets but further developing the linkages and identifying the gaps through other sectors such as the agriculture, trade and manufacture. The workshop was well participated by our key stakeholders in the agriculture and tourism sectors, and they benefitted in terms of human resources capacity, as a team of local, regional and global professional experts in the field of Agritourism presented and shared their invaluable experiences and knowledge. 

A key outcome from this workshop revisited the need for inter government collaboration and partnership especially the tourism and agriculture sectors, and inclusiveness of communities and the private sector in policies and programs required significant improvement. At the end of the workshop, recommendations were drafted to ensure a way forward for Samoa’s Agritourism agenda, and the following recommendations were agreed on: 

1. To establish an Agritourism Action plan for Samoa. Such will integrate activities such as Food Tourism, health tourism, local culinary, a marketing funding scheme, attraction tours, Agritourism park, village tours and private plantation tours;

2. More training opportunities from the STA, MAF, MOH, SROS and other research institutions;

3. More awareness on available funded projects especially at the community level;

4. Improvement on government policies, branding, marketing, certification, food protocols,
research, monitoring and evaluation, inclusiveness especially village youths;

5. Improved accessibility on financing opportunities as well as low interest rates on lending;

6. Improved relationship between farmers, chefs and tourism operators;

7. Farm visit tours and hands-on training for all farmers;

8. Set up an Agritourism Coordination Taskforce (ACT) to ensure its progress and to be chaired by
the private sector;

9. An Agritourism forum annually to ensure outputs and outcomes progress;

10. Marketing branding of locally produced products through Samoan overseas celebrities to educate
visitors;

11. Incorporating Agritourism as part of the STA annual excellence awards;

12. World Food Day – Tours for visitors – buy-eat-cook” experience concept; and,

13. Further investments into food technologies, processors, food safeties, and plant varieties.

In April 2017, the Honourable Prime Minister and Cabinet endorsed the institution of ACT comprising of the following membership (6 private sector entities and 4 government agencies): 

• Samoa Hotel Association (SHA)

• Samoa Culinary Association (SCA)

• Women in Business Development Inc. (WIBDI)

• Samoa Manufacturers Association and Exporters (SAME)

• Samoa Farmers Association (SFA)

• Samoa Farmers Federation Inc. (SFFI)

• Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF)

• Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Labour (MCIL)

• Samoa Tourism Authority (STA)

• Scientific Research Organisation of Samoa (SROS)
The overall objective of ACT is to discuss, action and establish means through which the coordination of quality and sustainable Agritourism products and services in Samoa are beneficial for Samoans and visiting guests, and to support the relevant objectives of the Samoa Development Strategy (SDS) 2016-2020, Agriculture Sector Plan (ASP) 2016-2020, and Samoa Tourism Sector Plan (STSP) 2014-2019. The ACT reports to the Agriculture Sector Steering Committee (ASSC) and STA Board of Directors, and MAF provides the secretariat support services. 

 

Also, the ACT must ensure that all Agritourism stakeholders are well informed of its strategic decisions and programmes. The ACT meetings will gauge the achievement of the desired results in the establishment and improvement of Agritourism products and services, namely food tourism
 (agriculture and fisheries) products, wellness and spa based tourism and agri-based attractions and tours, to help promote the nutritious diets and natural beauty and heritage of Samoa. The overall performance of Agritourism activities will be evaluated using KPIs of various Agritourism projects, as well as the relevant targets and KPIs of the SDS 2016-2020, ASP 2016-2020 and STSP 2014- 2019. 

The first Chairman of ACT was Seumanutafa Dr Malcolm Hazelman from SFFI. He was replaced by Saena Mulitalo Penaia from SFFI after the passing away of Seumanutafa. The ACT membership emphasises the importance our Government places on the private sector to lead and drive our economic development initiatives and efforts, such as our Agritourism development efforts. 

At the suggestion by CTA immediately after the Agritourism Policy Setting Workshop in December 2016, for Samoa to submit Agritourism proposals for EU funding considerations given the lengthy EU funding approval processes involved, STA coordinated the compilation of project proposals and ideas with the ACT members. The STA with the assistance of CTA, PIPSO and TRIP Consultants, finalised a 40-page project proposal on “Promoting Agritourism Development in Samoa” with a total 3-year budget of € 3,410,000 or ~ SAT 10,195,900 comprising of the following four Agritourism development projects: 

PROJECT 1: Strengthening linkages between local food production and consumption through improved access to tourism markets and enhancement of food tourism products (Budget: € 1,245,000 or ~ SAT 3,722,550); 

PROJECT 2: Increasing local incomes from wellness- and spa-based tourism through the promotion and development of the Samoan wellness and spa market (Budget: € 630,000 or ~ SAT 1,883,700); 

PROJECT 3: Supporting the development of agri-based attractions and tours that showcase the natural beauty and heritage of Samoa while sharing knowledge and promoting local agriculture and fisheries products (Budget: € 405,000 or ~ SAT 1,210,950); and, 

PROJECT 4: Supporting the design and the development of a broader Agritourism program comprising technical training, consumer education, rural business and employment initiatives (Budget: € 1,130,000 or ~ SAT 3,378,700). 

Out of the four abovementioned projects, WIBDI wrote one while the other ACT members contributed to the writing of the other three. The project proposal has been endorsed by the EU-ACP Council of Ambassadors for Intra ACP funding and is awaiting EU funding modalities. It is appropriate at this juncture to acknowledge our Ambassador in Brussels, Belgium, H.E. Fatumanava Dr. Pa’olelei Luteru, for his tireless efforts in getting our project proposal endorsed by the Council of Ambassadors. 

The Agritourism Park concept is part of project 3 with two areas being proposed for development, and they are: 

An Agritourism Park (botanical garden) that showcase the beauty, biodiversity, iconic geographical landscapes, traditional and medicinal plants of Samoa (Budget: € 125,000 or ~ SAT 373,750); and, 

Development of themed tourism routes – taro, kava, coconut, cocoa, etc. (Budget: € 280,000 or ~ SAT 837,200). 

The Agritourism Park aims to offer research and education services on Samoan traditional knowledge, venue for social and cultural activities including concerts and performances, agricultural/processing demonstrations (e.g., showing how food and beverages are made), culinary experiences in dedicated restaurants, and proposes tours to Samoa linking the park and the plantations and farms for various tourism experiences. The proposed budget of SAT 373,000 (not SAT 9,140,000 that your newspaper has misreported!) will cover scoping design concept development, costing and feasibility study, and PPP investment plan. 

The proposed budget of SAT 837,000 for the development of themed tourism routes will cover route design and mapping (two routes – one for Upolu and one for Savaii), training, study tours and product development (training and study tours targeted at 10 Agritourism attractions and 20 value- added producers over 3 years), signage for the routes (one for Upolu and one for Savaii), and promotional programme for the routes (media and internet). 

Our Government via STA, MAF and MNRE have commenced with the Agritourism Park development with the allocation of 20 acres from MAF’s 40+ acres of fruit tree plot at Atele to establish the park. Initial funding for some of the park development activities (landscaping, access roads, security fencing, etc.) is covered by STA and MNRE from their annual budget allocations and projects they are implementing. The progress of the park development is being monitored by ACT (which is driven by mostly private sector stakeholders) to ensure that it is completed according to plans as per one of the recommendations generated and agreed on by the key stakeholders of the agriculture and tourism sectors that had participated in the Agritourism Policy Setting Workshop. It is expected that interested private sector entities from both sectors (especially those who had attended the workshop) will operate the park. It will also provide opportunities for those who do not have a lot of assets (especially land) and resources (including our women and youth), but have sound business ideas and skills, to showcase and display their Agritourism related businesses. 

There has also been some progress to realise the abovementioned recommendations. For example, in February of this year, WIBDI launched their Farm to Table app developed by Skyeye with financial support from CTA. The app was designed to support WIBDI’s work in ensuring that more farmers earn a regular income through organic agriculture. 

I hope the above-explained will clear any misunderstandings that were reported in your newspaper. We welcome and support our important relationship to inform our people on the various private sector development initiatives and efforts supported by our Government via public-private partnership arrangements, because “individually, you can go fast, but together, we can go far”. I encourage our stakeholders who are not well informed about our Agritourism development initiatives and efforts to discuss with your representatives in ACT the progress of our joint efforts. For further elaboration or clarification, please consult with the Chairman of ACT. 

 

Tilafono David Hunter 

Chief Executive Officer 

Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries

© Samoa Observer 2016

Developed by Samoa Observer in Apia