Natural Resources and Industry Minister Peter Sinon’s World Food Day message-‘Parties with same objectives should unite to produce food’


16-October-2012

Minister Sinon“World Food Day this year presents us with yet another worrying trend and that is another major increase in the global prices of food. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has called an urgent ministerial meeting to discuss this unfortunate turn of events. This is to be the third major one in six years. This should be ‘a lot of food for thought’ for our isolated island economy. The increasing challenges to food security and food sovereignty are mounting and daunting.

Climate change, precipitating freak and unpredictable weather conditions as well as other factors such as the relatively new and increasing demands on land and crops for bio-fuel all coalesce to curtail supply with escalating effects on prices. The theme ‘Agricultural cooperatives – key to feeding the world’ is certainly relevant for many countries 
“In Seychelles, we may have not been successful in sustaining or making a success of the traditional agricultural cooperative production model that we have put in place.

A post-mortem of the reasons for its failures ranges from policy mis-alignments to lack of managerial skills, focus and lack of cooperative philosophy and spirit. Our top-down standard and singular approach may seem to have been the most appropriate considering the size of the market.

However, in reality the complexities of diversities of goals and objectives, resilience and needs of the small, medium and larger farms became too complicated for the one cooperative to handle.

The regrouping of parties with similar objectives, focus and core business would soon seem to be an inevitable and much more effective option for survival of our food-producing entrepreneurs going forward.

“My ministry, in consultation with some stakeholders, has already done a lot of the ground work for the revival of the agricultural sector through cooperative and strategic alliances and partnerships. The emphasis thus far has initially been to see where, why and what went wrong.

We need to learn from and avoid repeating the same mistakes and pitfalls that have landed us where we have been. With respect to cooperative itself our post-mortem culminated in a very interesting regional workshop that Seychelles hosted addressing this topic as one of two items on the agenda.

“Recently, together with the other islands of the Indian Ocean Commission, we met in a workshop and assessed among other things the significance of cooperatives in our respective island food security efforts. In Seychelles we made it clear that agricultural cooperatives have not succeeded.

“There was a complete lack of the cooperative philosophy and insufficient managerial skills among the members. The mechanism for critical policy dialogue and determination were deemed grossly inadequate and as a result disjointed rather than coordinated actions were being undertaken that led to the eventual decline of the movement. One of the stark weaknesses in the Seychelles Farmers Marketing Cooperative (SFMC) was the low priority it accorded to the development and promotion of the value-chain, thus the development of the market for its members’ products.

The influx of cheaper – well-packaged imports with a policy to open the livestock market may have combated inflationary spirals in a difficult period but also laced a number of farmers out of business or in serious financial difficulties.

“The workshop provided us with the opportunity to learn from our sister island states and come up with recommendations. In summary, we have come to understand that while small is beautiful a one-size fits all will simply not work. The diversity of interest groups and related needs to ensure survival is of particular importance. Meanwhile, opportunities to synergise when appropriate should not be missed to benefit from economies of scale or sheer numbers when it comes to negotiating for common interests.

“Categorising and facilitating similar operational scales to cooperate will bring more benefits to our diversity of farmers in the face of the many prevailing threats against our efforts.

Training and capacity building in the management of such cooperating bodies is key to successes.

 
“In fisheries, for example, the Praslin Fishers Association has been well organised and it is doing all within its ability to take on the responsibilities of co-managing artisanal fish stocks to ensure sustainability of such resources. I welcome this effort and I see the need to have it replicated among other fishing communities.  There are desires from other artisanal fishing communities such as those of Bel Ombre and Roche Caïman to organise, develop managerial skills and speak with one voice as well as ensure the upkeep and maintenance of the infrastructure at their disposal. Those are welcomed development, showing signs of assumption of greater responsibility and ownership of scarce resources put at their disposal and partaking in development plans that affect their trade.

“In land based food production systems, small but genuine agricultural cooperative groups have assured resilience of its members for decades. The Val D’Andorre farmers association is probably the longest standing natural grouping of farmers with similar aspirations and predicament. Its long-established community spirit, togetherness and leadership makes it ideal to promote a pilot cooperative project which can be replicated in other farming areas with long established farming members such as at Côte d’Or and at Amitié on Praslin.

“Bigger farmers have been traditionally more resilient than the smaller ones. Hence, the small farmers should aspire to form firmer groups which should recognise the needs of the group members. It would appear thus that the way forward for the food producing entrepreneurs – both big and small – would be to regroup sensibly around common objectives and themes for greater synergies and resilience. Indeed these aspiring cooperatives and associations will underpin all the national efforts being vested into the rebirth of the national food producing sector.”

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