Over 30 members of the FSAC attended the meeting to provide updates on any contingency plan and how NGOs, Private Sector and Government Departments should work together to combat COVID-19 situation.
The FSAC meeting was attended by Directors of all Departments under MALFFB, Ministry of Trades, International partners based in Vanuatu, members of FSAC (WHO, WFP, FAO, UNDP, UNICEF, DFAT, MFAT, etc) and the private sector.
The meeting was chaired by the Director for the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) Antoine Ravo. The Caretaker Minister for the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry, Fisheries and Biosecurity, Matai Seremaiah, and Acting Director General for MALFFB, William Naviti, also attended the cluster meeting.
Caretaker Minister for MALFFB, Mr Seremaiah, emphasized strongly at the meeting that “In regards to food security, the issue now is to start planting short term crops (three months harvest) such as vegetables, sweet potato and island cabbage and identify what available options we have especially for Luganville and Port Vila urban areas.
“We need to have sustainable plans in place. For sure the coronavirus will come so we need to consider the worst case scenario and that is emergency preparedness immediately.
“It is an opportunity for MALFFB and its partners to do extensive awareness on promoting the concept of backyard gardening which will be difficult in some areas.
“We must consider ‘Food Basket’ but not really a good measure as we are trying to avoid crowding of people in one area of increasing more risk but backyard garden and aquaculture fish farming will be encouraged”.
Mr Seremaiah added that “The MALFFB and private sector could work together to provide appropriate soil and seeds now that the students are at home, this is an opportunity for them to start doing some backyard gardening and after three months they can start harvesting fresh vegetables from their backyard.
“The preparation mindset should focus on the worst-case scenario and we should start planting immediately encouraging individual homes to start planting now.
“The government budget does not gather for this pandemic and I don’t believe the government can afford to feed the population for four to five months so each household should start growing their own food”, he said.
Food supplies in the island will not be a major problem as people have access to large land areas but in the two main centers of Port Vila and Luganville, people need to start planning to plant their own vegetables and root crops in their backyards.
The discussions shared by FSAC members were very constructive targeting immediate actions to be taken to maintain the sustainability of local food supplies and that ni- Vanuatu to take advantage of the situation to increase production to ensure food secure.
The DARD team in Port Vila, will also have a meeting this week to discuss plans that will be carried out in response to COVID-19 including commercial food basket set up whereby DARD will be working with commercial farmers under a Public Private Partnership (PPP) initiative to source planting materials for household to plant.
Port Vila residents are encouraged to commence backyard gardening as seeds and seedlings will be provided to interested households.
Photo supplied Caption: Caretaker Minister of Agriculture, Matai Seremaiah and members of the Food Security and Agriculture Cluster