Getting young people involved and working towards an organic industry producing healthy food for the local market and the tourist sector are all part of the way ahead, according to the international Food and Agriculture Organisation team that is in Rarotonga studying the local ‘farming sector’.
Value adding or initiatives such as vege/fruit baskets need to be considered to diversify market outlets and encouraging linkages between farmers and consumers.
The team reiterated that growers and consumers – like the tourist sector – need to talk more to find ways to meet the local market requirements which are currently mostly being supplied by imported food.
Fruitful development will also require training, with field days, soil schools and continued ‘coaching’ support to help develop a thriving part-time farming sector – alongside the full-time farmers - generating employment, meeting the local demand and providing fresh healthy fruit, veges and meat – which will have the added benefit of combating bad health outcomes like obesity and diabetes.
The FAO team says there needs to be much more contact between growers and the people who buy for the tourist sector, with both sides currently standing back and adopting a ‘wait and see’ approach.
As well as getting a new generation of young people interested in agriculture as a career, farmers need to cut back on the high input of chemicals into their production and should move towards regenerating natural healthy soils and organic production.
This in turn will impact the country’s overall commitment to protect its environment and rich bio-diversity.
The public are invited to an open meeting this Friday from 1pm to 2.30pm at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management (MFEM) Conference Room.