9 Jul 2013

Pacific women growers and exporters head to Jamaica summit

5:25 pm on 9 July 2013

Pacific women involved in growing or exporting stand to benefit from the outcomes of a summit starting in Jamaica tomorrow aimed at expanding the economic opportunities for women agriculturalists in the Pacific and Caribbean.

The two-day best practice exchange, called Supporting Economic Empowerment and Development in the Caribbean and Pacific, or SEED CAP, is supported by New Zealand and the United States.

The Pacific Cooperation Foundation's chief executive says participants will get a better understanding of the international market and what is required to obtain large-scale contracts.

Markerita Poutasi says for the Pacific participants, many of whom are coming from small family farms, it is also a chance to establish stronger regional networks. She spoke to Annell Husband.

MARKERITA POUTASI: In some of the countries we're referring to, I guess the growers are coming from a smaller family holding. So in Samoa the representation is Women In Business Development. So they work at family level, specifically with women on growing organically for a cosmetics market, in addition to growing organic vegetables for a local market. So when it comes down to what is the local conditions and who is growing, I guess some of the women leaders have identified that, really, they are working with women growers and that that's something that's a bit more specialised in terms of a network. Within the context of agricultural growth generally, all of the women acknowledge and say that they're part of a bigger agricultural sector, but in some respects it is useful to talk about some of the connections and networks that go on when you are just dealing specifically with women growers. I know that in Papua New Guinea, Linda Paru is a local grower, but she specifically targeted women and illiterate farmers, and is doing some social elements, so social entrepreneurship, really, working on literacy skills within agriculture, in addition to growing. So when you come down to what are people doing and what's the sector that they're growing in, there's clearly fewer women probably in the agricultural space than men. and so in terms of identifying growth areas for particular sectors, this is just an initiative that's focused on women in business.

AH: And yet in terms of women in Pacific Island countries, a huge number of whom are involved in agriculture, this could be something really big for them.

MP: I think there is something about profile and being able to see woman leaders who successfully operate at the growing level, at the distribution level and at the commercial level, growing both into the tourism sector and into exports. And there is something in leadership there that can be quite visual and powerful in terms of seeing real growth and real potential and seeing that it is possible to go from being a small holder collective into something larger and into larger opportunities.