Dear Editor,

I find the article on ‘Agritourism’ released in last weekend’s DP newspaper rather misleading and demeaning, not only to the CTA and IICA but to a whole range of other regional and international organisations which were very instrumental in bringing to public policy attention the whole concept of ‘Agritourism’ in the Pacific region since the first Pacific Agritourism Week in Nadi in June/July 2015.

The article alleges that “the confusion” around agritourism in Vanuatu was instigated by CTA and IICA.

Our National Agritourism Coordinator and her team don’t realize that besides the CTA and IICA, the other organisations involved in the first Agritourism push since the Nadi event were the EU, SPC, SPTO, the PAPP project, the INTRA ACP, USP and PIPSO, and in Vanuatu it was spearheaded immediately post-2015 by the Ministry of Agriculture, not Tourism.

That history some people have quickly forgotten or simply know nothing about. Maybe we’ve cherry picked and blamed CTA and IICA because they are not our regionally-based organisations?

Why not blame the whole lot including this writer, who championed the cause of Agritourism throughout 2015 and 2016 before the Dept. of Tourism turned it into a program?

To begin with, Chef Robert Oliver (named in the article) was with us in Nadi and spoke passionately about Agri-tourism there the way these organisations had positioned Agritourism then.

He also spoke in Barbados where the follow up event was hosted in November 2015, focusing on the very same subject.

The article further argues, “…we now need to address the key issue that we are experiencing in Vanuatu which is the loss of pride in our own local traditional farming systems, our local food and traditional cuisine”.

What were “we” doing for the past 35 years up until 2015? Whose role was it to rally public attention to and make our local farming systems and foods attractive to our own consumers? CTA and IICA?

Wasn’t it the responsibility of our very own failed public health system and its nutritionists over the past 35 years? Agritourism is a new concept and CTA, IICA and others weren’t around then.

The article also quotes Dr Cherise Addinsall (foreign adviser!) trying to correct our understanding of ‘agritourism’ as not being that which ‘addresses the high import of produce and value-added products that could be supplied locally’, but one which encourages the ‘potential for our farmers and agribusinesses to educate and promote Vanuatu’s local food, traditional cuisine, culture, handicrafts, etc. to tourists…’.

Hello, both these aspects of agritourism are part of the very same thing! Where was Dr Cherise when the whole Agritourism practicing world spent an entire week in Nadi in 2015 discussing all these aspects of Agritourism?

What’s new anyway in the so-called ‘Agritourism Diversification Program’ that we’ve not heard or discussed before with the support of a world practicing agritourism expert such as madam Ena Harvey of IICA who has seen agritourism flourish in the Caribbean?

I’d rather listen to her advice than to that of a pure academic!

Prior to 2015 the absence of a Champion behind Agritourism’s proactive public advocacy to sensitize Government attention simply meant, 1) no funding for the program, and 2) no funding for the officers and consultants who now seem to have a lot of words to speak and ‘expertise’ to advise us on, pretty much trying to reinvent wheels that have already been set in motion, and riding a wave created by CTA, IICA and others.

Howard Aru

Former DG MALFFB

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