Opinion

How can policymakers best facilitate stronger links between local agriculture and tourism?

Ezekiel Parairae

Agritourism: Solidifying synergies between the Solomon Islands’ key sectors

The Solomon Islands, a nation of hundreds of islands in the South Pacific, is an LDC (least developed country) with an abundance of natural resources. Since its independence in 1978, the country has largely depended on agricultural and forest resources for its economic growth; export revenues from primary resources such as logging, mining, agricultural products, and fisheries are the main sources of income. With clear opportunities for synergies and complementarity between the agriculture and tourism sectors, agritourism is an exciting next step.

Adapting to changing demands

As the Solomon Islands becomes more interconnected with the global economy, linking tourism and agriculture is an increasingly relevant policy matter. With the falling value of primary resources around the globe, it will be crucial for the Solomon Islands to sustain development and economic growth over the coming years. Value addition and industry expansion will also be vital in order to compete at a global level and adapt to the changing demands of the global market. Furthermore, with the population of the Solomon Islands soaring, the need to diversify development beyond the forestry, mining, and fisheries sectors is even more urgent.

A larger and growing population puts greater pressure on the public sector to address the developmental needs of the people. Linking important industries such as agriculture and tourism will help to diversify the economy and address the numerous challenges that threaten national development and growth, such as poor governance, economic stagnation and unsustainable development.

A joint approach to agritourism

Today, the popularity of formal employment has hugely impacted upon alternative livelihoods and traditional practices. As a young country with a wealth of natural resources, as well as a rich cultural heritage, agriculture and tourism provide the backbone of the Solomon Islands’ economy. In 2016, there were over 22,000 visitors to the Solomon Islands, who contributed €190 million in revenues, and visitor numbers are expected to have risen by 9% during 2017. However, in order to strengthen the links between the two sectors, a common national policy framework is required to guide each industry and create sustainable linkages. A joint policy framework will also help to synchronise policies, highlight complementarities, improve coordination between the two sectors, and fill crucial policy gaps that can arise.

An effective agritourism policy should support innovation, promote development, regulate the value chain, and emphasise sustainability. Furthermore, agritourism policy must acknowledge the important role of rural populations in both tourism and agriculture, and bridge the gap between these communities and the commercial economy. Specifically, rural farmers, small tourism operators and entrepreneurs must have a strong voice in policy discussions in order to ensure that the resultant policy is practical, realistic and forward looking.

Working together for prosperity

In recent years in the Solomon Islands, policy discussions have focussed heavily on improving the tourism sector. Efforts to develop the agricultural sector to further the economy have also been at the forefront of public and private sector policy. Thus, for agritourism to develop in the Solomon Islands, policymakers and private sector firms will have to work together; collaboration is required to ensure that a newly developed agritourism industry will positively influence the national economy and thrive across the country.

In November 2017, the Solomon Islands successfully hosted a national agritourism workshop, supported by CTA and other regional partners, as the initial step towards the formulation of its agritourism policy. The 2-day workshop considered the status of agriculture and tourism in the country, and explored priority areas where the sectors could deliver mutual benefits, notably in terms of local sourcing, value addition, product diversification, and the culinary industry. Speakers from the government, private sector, and experts in agriculture, tourism and trade made contributions highlighting the key factors needed to drive stronger linkages between the sectors. An area of particular interest for the workshop was the role of chefs in linking agriculture and tourism through cuisine.

The workshop provided an opportunity for different stakeholders to contribute constructively and positively to the discussions, which provided a real foundation for the development of a policy that will help harmonise the linkage between the agriculture and tourism sectors.

For more information about the agritourism policy workshop see: https://tinyurl.com/yaxugelc

The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) is a joint international institution of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and the European Union (EU). CTA operates under the framework of the Cotonou Agreement and is funded by the EU.