On Monday 14 February 2022, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Papua New Guinea in collaboration with the Department of Foreign Affairs & International Trade (DFA&IT) and the Department of Agriculture and Livestock (DAL) conducted the Country Consultative Meeting for the FAO 36th Session of the Asia Pacific Regional Conference in Port Moresby.
The half-day high-level consultation meeting with relevant Government authorities is a lead up to the main event, which is the FAO 36th Session of the Asia Pacific Regional Conference. The FAO conference is scheduled to be held from 8th – 11th of March 2022, in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
The FAO APRC is convened every biennium and is an official forum where Ministers and Senior Officials of the Government of FAO Member States in the Asia and the Pacific region meet to elaborate, beyond the borders of the individual countries, on challenges and priority matters related to food and agriculture, with a view of promoting regional coherence on global policies.
The APRC results in recommendations that guide FAO’s work in the vast Asia-Pacific region, and provides further guidance to FAO’s global conference in Rome in June of the following year.
Government Ministers, Secretaries and Senior Officers from DAL, DFAIT, Department of Communication and Information Technology (DCIT), National Fisheries Authority (NFA), Climate Change and Development Authority (CCDA), Conservation and Environment Protection Authority (CEPA), PNG Forest Authority (PNGFA), Department of National Planning and Monitoring (DNPM), Department of Health (NDoH), Department of Finance (DoF), Department of Commerce and Industry (DCI), Department of Community Development, Youth and Religion, were invited to attend the consultation.
The high-level Country Consultation aimed to sensitize participants on the APRC, regional priorities and initiatives as well as identifying the country’s gaps and needs of which FAO can better support the Government in achieving its development goals and objectives. Discussions were based on the following regional priority areas; (i) the state of food and agriculture in the Asia and Pacific region, in light of Covid-19 pandemic; (ii) promote climate resilient agri-food systems in Asia and Pacific region (iii) scaling up inclusive digitalization in agriculture value chains; (iv) identifying One Health priorities in Asia and the Pacific region; (v) Conserving, restoring and sustainably using biodiversity for food security and nutrition in the Pacific islands.
The meeting also enticed participatory discussions and provided the opportunity for Government stakeholders and agencies to engage amongst and with FAO on avenues for collaboration to benefit the people of PNG.
FAO PNG Head of Office and Country Representative, Mr Bir Mandal, spoke of the importance of partners and communities, and following the triangle approach to partnerships, explaining that in each angle of the triangle there is an international community (such as FAO) or development partner(s), a technical organisation and the community.
“If I’m working with a team, I must work with a key Department. And under the most important angle is the community – the farmers with whom you work with. So if we follow this approach we will be successful.”
Mr. Mandal went on further to talk about the importance of farmer cooperatives or community farming to assist small farmers to access equipment and empower themselves.
“Due to COVID-19, we have had a lot of problems in food supply, transportation, and such. It has also taught us to be independent to the extent possible in our own food production system. And it has opened our eyes and ears” said Mr Mandal in his closing remarks.
DAL Keynote speaker, Mr Brown Konabe, Acting Deputy Secretary for PATS, advised that to be engaged with the APRC, the GoPNG needs to be guided by the relevant policies, i.e.; the PNG Vision 2050, PNG DSP 2010-2030, MTDPs, and AMTDP 2020-2022.
The AMTDP is the current sector plan that will provide the basis for the GoPNG’s expectations, as it is well aligned with PNG Vision 2050, DSP, MTDP and the SDG 2030. He concluded that, “6 -7 million people depend on commodity crops for cash income, hence, agriculture, fisheries and forestry are important economic sectors that will contribute significantly to the growth of the economy. Though, there are many challenges, the GoPNG is committed to support the sector to protect and secure the wellbeing of 87% of the population in rural areas who depend on it for their livelihood.”
Mr Timothy Masiu, Minister for Communication and Information Technology, noted the importance of agriculture in the economic development of the country and how his department (DCIT) must be seen as enablers and facilitators to play an active role in implementing the APRC fourth regional priority, “Scaling up inclusive digitalization in agricultural value chains” in PNG.
The minister also emphasized on the importance of information dissemination, ‘’As Minister responsible for Communication, I am calling on all Government Departments to utilize our media platforms as our medium for sharing knowledge and information. Utilize the government radio and television because most of our people do not have access to development agendas such as presented today. The lack of information reaching the people is negatively affecting their interest to participate in development issues in the country.”