KANDA | The road to Commercial farming in Vanuatu

KANDA takes a look at a visionary idea by a local Vanuatu farmer who has a vision to create employment opportunities for Ni-Vanuatu workers in the Agriculture and Agri-Tourism sector.

We talk to Jack Loughman, a former Vanuatu Exchequer Services Manager within the Department of Finance & Treasury, who resigned and started Neleya Eco Farm Enterprise right here on Efate.

YTSNews: Welcome to KANDA Mr. Loughman, its a pleasure having you on a e-interview, first question here would be, did you really resign from public sector to become a farmer?

Loughman: Yes I did, and it is something I will never regret. Jesus himself prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane and not a church building before He was crucified. Undertaking this responsibility in field of farming  gives me hope to pursue this cause. We have been talking to much and expecting the society to do exactly what we want them to do in alignment with government policies but not walking the talk. 80% percentage of our society do not have access to quality or higher education to understand and implement the action priorities as outlined in any government policies and related strategies.

We have spoken about private sector lead growth but who exactly are we referring to. Increase in tourism sector, the figures looks good but that does not correspond with cash circulation in country as such funds have been invested abroad and not Vanuatu nor its related developments. These are some of the many reasons that has encouraged me and my family to leave the public service and be an active implementor out in the field. There is no clear linkage between the people and the plans and that is a rare challenge to take on with this integrated farming model.

YTSNews: Now that you are a farmer, what are you doing

Loughman: I am introducing a integrated farming model which relates to implementation of specific key policies of the National Government of Vanuatu. But to do this I had to show people achievements do need sacrifice and the educated class to work alongside the less educated and the only way for this to happen is for me to set an example. I wanted to be more practical and less theoretical.

YTSNews: As a former Government employee, what Government policies did you think you as a farmer, you will help to implement?

Loughman: I am interested in supporting AgriTourism developments,  and will have a module which is based on the Government AgriTourism Policy launched soon at Neleya Farm Enterprises sometimes in October this year 2017. This module I want to launch will enable young and old to participate and promote cultural diversity at the farm site.

I am also working with the Department of Agriculture in their Agriculture Policy basically providing horticulture and agriculture large scale production and promoting accessible planting materials to be distribution to needy or affected areas of Vanuatu and we have already begin this program last year 2016. I am also interested in Rural Road Access Policy, the National Co-operative Policy 2017-2022, the Fisheries Policy which addresses the need of maximization of inland aquaculture, Livestock Policy increasing livestock production and local consumption and many more. it is an integrated approach.

I trained entrepreneurs to be leading business oriented individuals in each specific sector to lead in his/her own society and land if in future he or she decides so. There are so many other good policies that needs to be implemented or access alongside this model including the ICT Policy. Given the geographical setting of this country, we need to proper centralized farming system to enable base -line data collection of our farm produce even at different designated locations. This is very very important if we do not have this kind of data to measure growth in specific sector of production then this project is just another to be shelved in the near future.

The Government has put in policies and funding support to achieve specific targets in productive sector  in 2020 or 2030 however; limitation of such mechanism in place will be very difficult to measure our contribution towards the overall target as entrusted by the government.

The biggest breakthrough for me here would be the Seasonal Work Program I want to trial. We do not need to go seasonal here in Vanuatu i guess, as certain produce can grow all year round through enhanced tools in modern agriculture. I look forward to starting this trial here on the farm very soon to create employment opportunities, and that is to provide a viable answer to approx. 80% of the unemployment population and also look to provide some answer to our national Health Policy by providing local food and support the fight against NCD through provision of quality food access at a minimal cost affordable to low income earners. The Vanuatu National Peoples Plan is a Government plan so I hope that plan does look to support local businesses such as myself and this model to grow. We are implementing this model alongside government and private sector support and it is something I am very happy about.

YTSNews: Can you outline some work plans that you have in place or currently operating on and what you are aiming to achieve.

Loughman: I want to build future entrepreneurs in the field of business in particular the productive sector. I have seen the good works well thoroughly established through Non Government Organizations, National Government and Private Sectors towards mitigating socials issues within the peri-urban areas as a result of rural-urban drift. Building a community centre does not put food on the table for an individual household nor does it provide sufficient cash to support his or her livelihood unless there is something to sell at the community centre. The Government and NGO’s must be seen to be vocal in supporting this model through funding support or in kind in the hope that this model will eventually replicated in other villages or islands of Vanuatu. It will also help in reducing the ongoing and increasing social unrest in both rural and urban areas as this will directly provide jobs to unfortunate individuals within the peri-urban zone within Efate.

YTNews: We have heard about farming through the Public Private Partnership (PPP) Model. What are your thoughts on this?

Loughman: I believe to really address the trade imbalances, inadequate production base and  insecure food security within this country. This PPP model alongside joint-support from the Government, lead private sectors and landowners, will indeed enable full ownership and participation towards a sustainable economic growth of this country. No employees is encourage through this model but rather building partnership with the Land Owner, Neleya Eco-Farm Enterprise and the Farmers. The Farmers will be given seeds to plant  of which  20% of the overall sales of that product is entirely for them. The three partners will then buy equal shares with an established or registered producers cooperative which will then be the main buyer of all our farm produce.

We cannot compare Vanuatu with our regional trade partners from Australia, New Zealand, PNG, Fiji to name a few with its current production base. Vanuatu is too small and an evidence to this is our population size. we have to move in through PPP Model and organic integrated farming to maximize our effort and benefit in aspects of development. This is Vanuatu’s Future. Vanuatu is seen and experienced with imported products with high chemical content, yet encouraged to be safe for Vanuatu Citizens. Healthy, Wealthy and Educated Vanuatu is not near in this current trend as it clearly depicts from the current NCD Index of this country.

Vanuatu cannot afford first grade product abroad because quality comes with excessive cost and we end up importing cabbages which in then contributes to a mentally sick society and an unproductive society if we and the government are not careful.  Vanuatu needs to participate fully and wholly through MSG Trade agreement with its home grown organic products within region of Melanesia which currently its not the case. Fiji, Solomon and PNG are benefiting largely on this.

Rebuilding Vanuatus Future is not merely through large aid support and loans but self sustainable roadmap which was told 37 years already but not fully implemented. We seek so much abroad and done little towards empowering the citizen of this country, particular the Land owners. They see no complete significants of owning their custom land or fully participating in so call economic growth, because govt is too busy with formalities and they (Land Owners) have become victims. We cannot blame them if they have leased these properties with incomparable land values.

The educated and literate citizens with the support of the current government have known far to much and we all should step out into the reality world and see the needs surrounding our beloved society. We have known too much and have act  a little for the 37 years. Government and project funding have and were appropriated towards less priorities matters of this country and little to productive sector. Vanuatu is most prone to natural disasters and to obtain financial support towards this endeavour is of very low chances.

Neleya farm is in partnership With Indigenous Media Enterprise Limited (IMEL) and we are establishing an e-farming system through web-interface to enable real time data of specific products on various designated or engaged farm locations to be viewed by any interested parties i.e. Agriculture Dept, Statistics, Department of Finance & Treasury, National Disaster Office etc.

YTSNews: How did you come to realize you can start employing huge number of workers?

Loughman:  New Zealand and Australia is here and though the land mass may not be the same, small is beautiful and small is powerful through organic farming. The year after year RSE activity has made me realize we can do this program in Vanuatu. We really need to look at large scale production and access of quality and organic produces at low cost. We will increase increase production of fed meal for small livestock in Vanuatu, we will see the materialization of increased value added product to replace cheap and unhealthy junk food on each Chinese shops in Vanuatu which is really the root cause of NCD growth in Vanuatu.

If we increase production, we increase the work force as well and this means the many unemployed young people in the neighborhood of Port Vila can come work in the fields. I want to trial a work force of about 500 to 1000 early next year 2018. I believe If i can have a sufficient workforce, we can enable this country not only to address sufficient quality food domestically but also venture in promoting and up scaling production of pharmaceutical products to be used by our health centers. This is one amongst other major factors affecting the cash flow circulation in country towards supporting GDP Growth and sustainable economic growth of this country.

YTSNews: You have mentioned about ICT Policy, what other areas of need do you see the need to be improved?

Loughman: TRR provides important information for all stakeholders including Individual and Business Consumers, and other interested parties in this field of ICT. I am not sure if they have undertaken assessment on the current cost associated to Telecommunication. I would appreciate to see and hear from them how they are addressing this issue and to what extend for the benefit of relevant stakeholder including myself. Thank you TRR.

YTSNews: Any final remarks?

Loughman: This is an integrated model which comes with multiple effects to the benefit of this country, but first and for most, first things first. we cannot do all at once. I solemnly believe this country can change, it is the mindset and the attitudes of each single citizen that needs to be addressed and this change begins with one person. we always love to walk the path of disagreements and disunity and not a unified citizen towards a unified cause of change.

We should not be depending on the government to do everything, at least take the risk (I and my Wife have towards implementation of what our leaders have told us to do. We ought to commit ourselves through faith in God, humility, and perseverance with a positive outlook. we have been talking too much with less action in the field. we are mature citizens and i cannot be seen repeating myself in how best we need to change the destination of this God given Land. The change begin within us with total reflection on the Preamble our Constitution.

“WE the people of Vanuatu, PROUD of our struggle for freedom, DETERMINED to safeguard the achievements of this struggle, CHERISHING our ethnic, linguistic and cultural diversity, MINDFUL at the same time of our common destiny, HEREBY proclaim the establishment of the united and free Republic of Vanuatu founded on traditional Melanesian values, faith in God, and Christian principles, God or other deities AND for this purpose give ourselves this Constitution.” the extract from the Preamble of the Constitution of the Republic of Vanuatu.”

May the Lord God bestowed his grace upon us towards a unified mindset for change.

Author

Yumi Toktok Stret

Yumi Toktok Stret reporter. based in Vanuatu, Fiji, Solomon Islands, PNG, Australia, New Zealand, USA, England, South America, Middle East.

Profile used by various journalist around the region.