‘Farm to Table’ is a program jointly implemented by the TORBA Vanuatu Skills Partnership (VSP), Department of Cooperatives and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) on the islands of Mota and Vanua Lava since 2018.
VSP and DARD commenced activities of training local farmers to supply local produce to Sola market house and other clients.
“The turnout of the training does not meet our expectations so we came to identify the challenges faced by local farmers.
“One of the challenges is accessing transport to supply their local produce to the market house,” TORBA Provincial Agriculture Officer (PAO), Peter Maho stated.
Mr Maho said, “Dialogue between VSP, DARD and farmers concluded with providing transport subsidy for farmers to transport their food to the market, which commenced in 2019.
“Funds were budgeted for the transport subsidy program for the farmers to supply their local produce to the market as transport is their main challenge as the islands are scattered.”
VSP and DARD have worked with the Department of Cooperative in TORBA province to identify a Retail Consumer Cooperative on Mota island.
“We work with the members of Gamalna Retail Shop, which is a cooperative on Mota island as they are also farmers who are already well set up and most farmers that used to supply fresh produce to the Sola market house are farmers from Mota island.
“Local farmers who are members of Gamalna Retail Shop are scheduled to supply local food to Sola market house every Friday.
“All the farmers’ local produce is purchased by Gamalna Retail Shop and are sold at the Sola market house.
“These produces belong to members and non-members of the retail shop.
“The VSP and DARD supported the farmers by providing fuel for transport under the subsidy program. VSP provides 50 litres of fuel and DARD provides 20 litres.
“The farmers are responsible for the maintenance cost of the boat,” PAO for TORBA, Peter Maho explained.
Maho added “The leftover food is stored at the DARD office for sale and the money is provided to the farmers after the sale.
“VSP, DARD and the Department of Cooperative will work together with Gamalna Retail Shop to amend their bylaw to insert the marketing program and at the same time making some savings.
“A bank account was already opened and a certain percentage of money was agreed for the farmers’ savings.
“Twenty Savings and Loan books were issued to the farmers for free and the rest of farmers have to purchase pass books at VT200 per book.
“The concept of Savings and Loan is to encourage farmers to save their money that will enable them to make a loan in the future for other investments and also the savings will assist farmers to sustain their marketing program if the subsidy comes to an end.”
The VSP, DARD and Cooperative Department are also working with Lalnetak Farmers’ Coop, which is a newly established cooperative on East Vanua Lava.
“We are currently working with the Coop to draft their bylaw and register their Coop.
“They will also sell their local produce at Sola market house every Mondays with the provision of transport subsidy by VSP and DARD.
“This is part of the ‘Farm to Table’ program that VSP and DARD are working with Cooperative Department to sustain our farmers and assist them with the challenges they are facing in terms of earning income for their families.
“Many farmers are eager to register with the two cooperatives because the subsidy has assisted many local farmers and many kava farmers are also interested to join the cooperatives as the subsidy program seems to sustain their livelihood and it connects famers to come closer to the DARD, VSP and Cooperative Department.
“Many farmers lack information on the role of government departments on Sola and are unable to seek information but when we go down to their communities, they are more flexible to come to the office to ask more questions and technical advice,” Maho said.
‘Farm to Table’ program is a complimentary activity of ‘Farm to School’ program that involves farmers who used to supply local produce to schools and market outlets on TORBA province.
“With the opening of the new market house on Mota Lava and another market house will be built on Gaua, the ‘Farm to Table’ program will sustain the local produce of farmers that will be sold at these market houses.
“We want farmers to participate in these programs, ‘Farm to Table’ and ‘Farm to School’, because it will assist the DARD to register the farmers under the Vanuatu Primary Producers Authority (VPPA) and also it will assist DARD to identify its key farmers and their specific produce so VPPA can support them to sustain ‘Farm to Table’ and ‘Farm to School’ programs in TORBA province,” TORBA PAO Maho concluded.