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Your Excellency, Mr Frans Baan, Head of Delegation of the European Commission Pacific Delegation, Mr Noel Levi, Secretary General of the of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Excellencies, members of the Diplomatic Corps, High Commissioners and Ambassadors of the eight Pacific ACP States and soon to be six new ACP States, Distinguished guests, Representatives of the Media, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Today’s event marks yet another important milestone in the excellent collaboration between the people of member states of the European Union and the people of the Pacific ACP States and OCTs. The signing ceremony we are about to undertake bears witness to the genuine commitment by the European Union Member States, through the European Commision to further assist Pacific Island governments and territories sustainably develop and manage one of their most important resources – Agriculture.

Today’s signing brings to 21 million Euro the total contribution the European Commission channeled through the Secretariat of the Pacific Community to assist regional development in the Agriculture and Fisheries sector over the next four years. Eleven months ago on 20th December 2001, I was happy to be at the signing ceremony of the first two projects funded by the European Commission and being implemented by the SPC under the 8th EDF. These were the Plant Protection in the Pacific (PPP) project (4.3 M Euro), and the Pacific Regional Oceanic and Coastal Fisheries (PROCFISH). Project (10.5 M Euro). It is often said that Christmas does not come too often. However, over these two past years, SPC has been gratefully endowed with financial assistance from the European Commission to support regional development in these two important sectors just ahead of Christmas.

I echo the appreciation expressed by the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and the Regional Authorising Officer, Mr Noel Levi, to the people of the Member States of the European Union through his Excellency the Head of Delegation of the European Commission for the Pacific for this immense support to Pacific Island agriculture.

Agriculture is the largest primary sector in the Pacific, providing work for up to 85 percent of Pacific Island people and contributing up to 40 percent of GDP. Food security is critical to the survival of Pacific Island people. The main objective of the ‘Development of Sustainable Agriculture in the Pacific (DSAP) project’ is ‘to improve food security and livelihood of target farm families in the Pacific’. It is a 4-year regional project currently covering eleven (11) Pacific Island countries and territories (8 ACPs and 3 OCTs). We are presently working with the Regional Authorising Officer and the European Commission delegation to consider how the benefits of this project could be expanded to include the six new Pacific ACP states under the 9th EDF programme of assistance.

One major challenge in this project is the de-centralised nature with which it will be implemented. Each participating state will have its own project steering committee comprising of representatives of national partner organisations. The committee will determine the national priorities that will be inco-operated into the annual national work plans. The project has a strong emphasis on participatory methods to identify farmer problems and develop strategies to solve these problems through on-farm demonstrations, training and other extension methods. Extension communications will be enhanced through provision of training, technical advice and equipment. There is also very strong emphasis on partnership with, and capacity building of critical stakeholders including Ministries of Agriculture, Non Government Organisations and private sector operatives working in the Agriculture sector as well as the farmer communities. This approach increases the chances for greater ownership by each participating state, as they are involved in the setting of priorities and identification of appropriate interventions at the national level. This is critical for sustainability. It will however be a very challenging project to manage from the regional level, and success of the project will very much be a function of the level of commitment by the partners from the national and regional level.

Your Excellency, this project addresses a key survival sector for Pacific Island people. The challenges of developing the region’s agriculture sector to ensure there is increased food production, trade and food security is a major feature of DSAP.

The Secretariat of the Pacific Community is greatly honoured to be a partner with the European Commission, the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and the Territory Authorising Officer to bring the implementation of this important project for the Pacific ACP states and OCTs into fruition. Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for your attention.

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