Flexible Multi-Partner Mechanism (FMM)

Keeping it local: Agribusiness investments boost production on Cook Islands

KEY IMPACTS

  • 11 (in 2015) agribusinesses (tropical orchards, processing centres, organic farms, greenhouses) were created in the Cook Islands.
  • Also 7 agribusinesses (4 nurseries and 3 orchards) were created in 2016.
  • 55 government officials and private sector participants in Sudan were trained on agribusiness investment promotion.
  • 89 participants from financial institutions were trained in value chain finance and agriculture loan analysis through a partnership with the African Rural and Agricultural Credit Association.

Farming has provided a source of sustenance, income and cultural meaning for centuries in the Cook Islands.

In recent decades, though, production has declined as the local economy focuses on other activities, such as tourism or trade.

Local media quote the Ministry of Agriculture as saying the country now cannot meet its target of growing 20 percent of its food locally, and is spending over USD 7 million on importing fruit and vegetables and almost USD 9 million on importing meat. The local agribusiness sector could meet market demand, because conditions are perfect for growing most of the costly imported fruit and vegetables.

Enabling local smallholders to meet this demand would revamp agriculture and create employment for the approximately 17 000 people spread over 15 islands. To do this, however, small agribusinesses need targeted assistance to access financial resources.

FAO, as part of the global Accelerated Agribusiness and Agro-industry Investment Technical Assistance Initiative, is helping bring the required investment.

In partnership with the Chamber of Commerce of the Cook Islands, FAO established a programme to provide grants that match recipients’ financial contribution, along with technical assistance, coaching and mentoring.

Tini Jack and her husband Gelling were among those who benefited. They gave up comfortable government jobs with guaranteed salaries to plant staples, in the traditional way, because they knew they could get funding and technical support. 

They are now planting pawpaw, maniota, pineapples, taro, sweetsop and bananas. They have an orange plot with 200 trees. They have planted 100 coconut trees. When everything comes into production, they estimate an income of USD 15 000 - 20 000 a year.

Part of the Jacks’ success comes from the technical knowledge and skills gained through the project. They understand how to match market demand – for example, they found out yellow maniota was popular, they invested in it. They can determine which of their plots of land are best suited to which crops. With FAO support, they bought a “ride-on” mower, which means that weed control that once took a week can now be done in a day.

With greater volumes of production and increased trade, they plan to attract more investment for their business and have their daughters join in, creating further employment for other youth in the island.