Fighting For Justice for Small Farmers in Vanuatu

Madame Claire with supporters at Banban.
Madame Claire with supporters at Banban.

The Vanuatu Coconut Project (VCP) promised major improvements for the lifestyle of small-scale or ‘grass roots’ coconut farmers in Vanuatu.

The funds for this Project were sourced from the European Commission through former Ambassador to Brussels, Roy Mickey Joy.

According to an article published by Daily Post on the 7th of October 2014, the release of the first installment towards the Vt2.5billion Santo-based project was to be finalized within weeks of that article.

To date, none of those funds have been released.

This delay has had escalating impacts on communities, businesses and lives of families that have invested time and resources while patiently waiting for the VCP to be implemented.

For one of these investors, Madame Claire Lei Tapangaliu Dornic, owner of C.L Agencies, the delay has culminated in an eviction notice served on Monday this week, for her to vacate her property by Friday April 13.

Speaking to Daily Post at her property in Banban, Madame Claire shared, “I want, through Daily Post, to stand up for these farmers and families, who have sacrificed long and hard for this project.

“First of all, everyone must know that the Vanuatu Coconut Project is a national project, owned by the coconut farmers from Torba to Tafea. I don’t own it.

“My role was to provide knowledge, experience, a processing facility and networks for accessing International Markets.

“So, if this project is not given a chance to start and grow, all small hold coconut farmers will not receive the value from their crops that they deserve.

“This eviction notice is a direct result of the delay in funds.

“Believing that the funds would soon be released, i took a loan from Bred Bank to finance the repair of the buildings in preparation for the project.

“The delay in the promised funds has made it impossible to have a fully functioning processing plant which would generate income to help repay the loan.

“Since 2013, i decided to use my own funds to help these families who have worked hard and made large sacrifices for the Project to be successful.

“I’ve paid their food, small allowances in the weekend, cultural obligations for weddings or funerals and school fees because I am a community minded person.

“In June of 2016, two weeks before the funds were finalized for release, the government lost confidence in my ability to deliver because of a claim made by the Pacific Advisory Group in Vila, that I was bankrupt.

“I am still fighting a defamation case against them,” she alleged.

“Bred Bank, which is a business, has decided after many years, not to continue waiting for the promised funds and are selling my property at below the market rate.

“Although I have made arrangements with an investor from USA, willing to continue helping our farmers to market their products, Bred Bank have refused to consider our proposal,” she said.

The investor alleged the bank has gone to another investor.

“I just want Bred Bank to renegotiate with us and really listen to our case. These are people’s lives at stake. Most of these loyal people on my property are widows and children who will stand to lose much if the wrong investor buys this property.”

Flanked with two men of God, Pr John Weimani, a pastor from Christian Revival Centre and Reverend Albert Yakis, as well as the Banban customary Landowner Chief James Turavarc from Tutuba and the support of her loyal staff from the Banban community, Madame Claire believes that she has God, custom and community on her side. Madame Claire is adamant that she will continue to fight until justice is served for the Coconut Farmers she represents throughout Vanuatu.

VCP’s vision was to help educate and resource local farmers to generate a higher income through Integrated Coconut Processing – the usage of the whole coconut. In addition, VCP would help the farmers to produce top premium copra for export, resulting in much better income for our ‘grass roots’ Coconut farmers.

Mrs Dornic, who has invested 30 years here in Vanuatu to develop the Coconut Industry, finished her defense with a bold statement, “I will passionately work with investors who are willing to change the image of the Copra Industry in Vanuatu, from one being associated with poverty into that of a beautiful sophisticated lady.”

UNCTAD facilitates consultation on eTrade

The Vanuatu Daily Post – A week-long consultation on eTrade conducted by Sven Callebaut, from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and Fred Samuel, the local contractor.

UNCTAD Consultant Sven Callebaut, National Consultant Fred Samuel, and Senior Officials from MTTCNVB
UNCTAD Consultant Sven Callebaut, National Consultant Fred Samuel, and Senior Officials from MTTCNVB

eTrade is defined as “…the sale or purchase of goods or services, conducted over computer networks by methods specifically designed for the purpose of receiving or placing of orders”, was held at the Department of Trade and Industry Conference Room last week.

UNCTAD, with the support of the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF), were here to do a readiness study for Vanuatu, looking at how ready and willing the country is to embrace eTrade. The week was run in conjunction with the Ministry of Tourism, Trade, Commerce, and Ni-Vanuatu Business, and consisted of a number of workshops and other consultations with key stakeholders. More information on the UNCTAD programme can be found at www.etradeforall.org.uk

Acting Director General MTTCNVB, George Borugu said, “eTrade is becoming ever more important in the global economy, and it is crucial for developing countries that they are not left behind. The work done by UNCTAD is an important first step, but there is still much work which needs to be done. I call upon all stakeholders to work together to help Vanuatu develop and grow. I would like to thank everyone who attended the workshops, and in particular to the EIF and UNCTAD for their support.”

If anyone would like to contribute to the surveys, they are still open, and can be found at:

Public sector: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/eTrade_Vanuatu_PublicSector

 The Trade Development Division would also like to inform the public that the first National Trade Development Meeting will be held at Melanesian Hotel on April 11, beginning at 8.30am.
Launching Tafea Cooperative Guest House

The Vanuatu Daily Post – Deputy Prime Minister and Minister responsible for Cooperatives, Joe Natuman and Australian High Commissioner, Jenny Da Rin, jointly launched an impressive fully furnished new concrete building with three additional bedrooms at a cost of Vt1.3 million, to bring the total number of bedrooms of Tafea Guest House in Port Vila to 18 last Friday.

Deputy Prime Minister and Australian High Commissioner confirm partnership with handshake
Deputy Prime Minister and Australian High Commissioner confirm partnership with handshake

High Commissioner Jenny Da Rin said, “Just over three years since Cyclone Pam hit Vanuatu and I was in Canberra working on Vanuatu and I was one of the people who negotiated the recovery package for Vanuatu. “It’s been very satisfying for me to be able to come here and see the project we talked about with the Government actually being built.

“Last year and this year we are seeing fantastic progress in the rebuilding of important public buildings and businesses around the country that were damaged by cyclone Pam. And we hope that by the end of this year we will largely have completed that work. That will include 19 cooperative buildings with Vt20 million allocated to that including Vt1.3 million that has been spent on this building here”.

The High Commissioner agreed with the Director of Cooperatives. Ridley Joseph, that the project is a partnership between the Governments of Vanuatu and Australia. “We allocated the funding but that funding went through Government systems that made decisions on how it was spent”, she said.

She said using local contractors enabled the funding to provide businesses and jobs and for locals and enabled money to filter through to local communities and individual households.

“For us it is not just about the building, the building is a wonderful thing but what I and my colleagues are most proud of is that it made a significant development impact as well and that’s what this partnership is all about”, she added.

She also commented on the Director’s remarks concerning “supporting business” saying business is the driver of the economy and without business, the economy will not grow. “Cooperatives play a really important part in that. So to have aspects like this building and generate an income for the cooperatives is very important and this is what this new building will do. It will allow a resource for the community but it will also generate an income for the cooperative which is a small business”, she said.

“And we are very proud to have supported bungalows to reestablish themselves and we are proud to have funded tourism businesses to bring the tourists back so these are all very important for the economy of Vanuatu”.

In his remarks the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister responsible for Coopratives said he has not forgotten March 13 2015, when he received a phone call from then Prime Minister of Australia Tony Abbot who assured him that Canberra was ready to work with Vanuatu to rebuild the country. He also received a similar assurance from the New Zealand Prime Minister in Wellington. He thanked both countries for their reconstruction efforts.

He said when Prime Minister Charlot Salwai took office, he announced three priorities which were neglected by previous governments.

• To rebuild facilities which were destroyed by the cyclone including cooperatives.

• To rebuild Bauerfield to allow international flights to land as Air New Zealand and Virgin Blue both suspended their flights.

• To work to assure OECD to remove Vanuatu from the “grey list”. It is important that the country is moved away from there to avoid being black-listed.

Director of Cooperatives Ridley Joseph thanked the Government through the Ministry of Cooperatives and the Australian Government through High Commissioner Jenny Da Rin, for the joint partnership which resulted in the new concrete building.

He also thanked Governance for Growth Director Clinton “for making this a reality”.

While cooperatives come at the bottom of the list for implementation of recovery funds, the Director said good things come with time and in time.

Tafea Guest House and Malampa Guest House are believed to be the only guest houses that are open today.

Vanuatu’s Ultimatum to Investors

Vanuatu Minister of Internal Affairs Andrew Napuat
Vanuatu Minister of Internal Affairs Andrew Napuat

All investors and foreigners who are currently residing and working in Vanuatu have three weeks to ensure they are complying with Vanuatu’s Labour and Immigration laws or they will face the full force of the law.

Minister of Internal Affairs Andrew Napuat gave the ultimatum yesterday afternoon.

“I am appealing to all investors, foreigners, who have overstayed or have issues with their residency visas and work permits to come forward within three weeks to rectify their status with the Vanuatu Immigration Services,” the minister stressed.

He said a major operation will be conducted from March, 19, 2018 through to the first week of April and will be undertaken by Department of Labour, Vanuatu Immigration Services and other enforcement agencies.

The ultimatum is applicable to those who are overstaying in the country and are residing or operating without proper documents.

According to records from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the number of overstayers currently stands at 600, however there could be more.

The ministry has stepped up compliance and will continue to stage major checks from time to time.

Border management and Labour Employment services are important services in this Ministry. Vanuatu has benefitted a great deal from two very important government policies.

 “Whilst Labour mobility is the talk of the town and communities together with citizenship investment program, our focus has shifted from our core business which is protection of our borders and protection of our national labour policies or work, the Minister said.

“Assessing the growth and influences together with issues experienced MOIA has re-aligned itself to focus more on its core functions.”

Minister Napuat said, Vanuatu has enjoyed a relaxed environment for too long and the Ministry of Internal Affairs must step up its enforcement.

The warning also extends to all business houses who have not implemented the new minimum wage rate of Vt160 to Vt200 per hour.

 Source:
Coffee Pulper machine for north Pentecost farmers

Vanuatu Daily Post, By Anita Roberts

Handing over of coffee pulper from DARD to farmers in north Pentecost
Handing over of coffee pulper from DARD to farmers in north Pentecost

It has been brought to the attention of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) that arabic coffee can be grown at Lagatava in north Pentecost, just like on Tanna and Epi.

The Department is providing assistance to increase the potential of growing coffee there as an alternative crop to generate income for locals to meet their basic needs, apart from kava.

It has supplied a pulper to coffee farmers in north Pentecost last week. Farmers will use the pupler for coffee pulping process, through a Small Grant Project soon to be implemented.

DARD also promised to send an Agriculture Extension Officer (AEO) to work with farmers there and give technical support.

The most populated area on Pentecost is in the north.

There is a high demand of resources in the area, with the space to do farming literally running out as more locals look to the Recognized Seasonal Employers (RSE) scheme for survival, said the spokesperson of coffee farmers from North Pentecost in Port Vila, William Ganileo.

“Locals on Pentecost started growing coffee in 2008 as another option from kava to boost livelihood. Seedlings are supplied from Lowanatom on Tanna.

“The beans got dried and wasted on trees. This is because they (locals) lack knowledge on how to harvest and process the beans,” he said.

 The new EAO will help with setting up of the coffee pulper on Pentecost and at the same time teach farmers about the techniques of nursery development, pruning and harvesting process.

The Department of Agriculture has been promoting coffee production on Tanna and Epi, recently extending to Erromango and Santo.

Pentecost is known for supplying the bulk of kava and taro in the country.

With the assistance from DARD, farmers at Lagatava are now planning to expand their production.

The Price Control Bureau has been reactivated under the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management.

After deactivation in 2009, the Ministry of Finance has reactivated it to ensure traders, persons engaged in commercial activities and persons providing services do not take advantage of the recent Value Added Tax (VAT) increase to deprive consumers of the purchasing powers through raising prices of their goods and services on their shelves.

The Bureau was deactivated 8 years ago and left unattended but it was not repealed.

The current coalition Government led by the Prime Minister, Charlot Salwai, is reactivating the Price Control Bureau under the Leadership of the Minister of Finance and Economic Management, Gaetan Pikioune.

During the first day of the current coalition partners, as outlined in the 100 Days Policy Plan, Activity 5 under the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management medium and long term plan, the Government had mandated the Ministry of Finance to set up the Price Control Bureau.

Following the ongoing development, the Council of Ministers (COM) in its Decision 55 of 2016, sets out the clear mandates which calls for the establishment of a Price Control Bureau under the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management Corporate Service. And to immediately set up the Bureau.

The Council of Ministers’ 9th ordinary meeting approved that in the medium term a supplementary budget of Vt10 million be allocated to the Price Control Bureau and 2 Officers be undertaken.

The Council of Ministers also approved that a review of the Price Control Act and the Public Health Act be undertaken with a view to amalgamate the two legislations in order to collaborate in reducing NCD-related health risks from imported and locally produced goods to the population of Vanuatu.

The Council of Ministers in its decision also approved that the composition of the Prices Advisory Committee to be made by the Minister of Finance and Economic Management will be subject to another Council of Ministers (COM) paper.

The Council of Ministers also endorsed the idea to engage a technical advisor during the initial phases of establishing the Bureau with funding to be sourced externally and as part of the Terms of Reference (TOR) to also review other Act(s) relating to the issue of pricing. The Council of Ministers decision at the time agreed that these tasks should be undertaken within the next two months.

According to the Ministry of Finance, the process is now in place to implement and reactive the Price Control Bureau.

The ministry is reportedly mindful of the fact that traders, persons engaged in commercial activities, and persons providing services, are taking advantage of what the Ministry of Finance describes as minor increase in VAT, to deprive consumers.

The Ministry of Finance is now very determined to have the Price Control Office fully operational before the end of this fiscal year, a Ministry of Finance Official told the Daily Post.

He said, in the interim, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management is contracting the services of a prominent figure to operate the Bureau to implement the functions of the Bureau while the Government seeks to find a permanent solution, says the Ministry of Finance official.

The Ministry of Finance official says the ministry wants to protect the people of Vanuatu and all consumers from being taken advantage of by traders, persons engaged in commercial activities and persons providing services in raising prices of their goods and services at the shelves.

AFIC Committee Dissolved, Interim Manager Appointed

Barnabas Tabi, Founder and Director of AFIC is ordered not to interfere with any dealings of AFIC.
Barnabas Tabi, Founder and Director of AFIC is ordered not to interfere with any dealings of AFIC.

Director of the Apma Financial Investment Centre (AFIC) Barnabas Tabi was served with an order yesterday afternoon to hand in all files, keys, and assets of AFIC to the Registrar of Cooperatives and refrain from all dealings with AFIC in Port Vila or any of its branches.

The Registrar of Cooperative, Ridley Joseph authorised the order following a decision to dissolve the Committee of AFIC.

Manager Compliance and Assistant Registrar, Joe Iauko, explained that the Office of Cooperatives made the decision following a lot of complaints they were receiving from members of AFIC.

Despite words of assurance from the Director of AFIC himself last November, a lot of AFIC customers were reportedly confused and brought their frustrations to social media and questioning why they were not able to withdraw their money but were advised that they could only withdraw a certain amount of their money.

Investigations undertaken by Cooperatives revealed that AFIC allegedly failed to comply with recommendations that were brought to the attention of that financial institution following an audit in 2016.

Other interesting findings of the Cooperatives showed that AFIC is operated allegedly without a board of director.

All decisions were undertaken allegedly by the director himself. This has led to alleged unreliable decision including decisions of lending money to non-members.

Even Barnabas Tabi allegedly borrowed huge money from the institution to fund various projects under Bujunbana Holdings, a business registered under the name of Mr Tabi. There was also alleged over borrowing from some of its members which led to short fall in cash.

Operating a savings and loans business without a committee is defeating the whole principle component of Cooperatives which is promoting working togetherness and having the members as its owners, Iauko said.

In a letter addressed to Barnabas Tabi, Director of AFIC, the Cooperative Registrar stated, “In exercise of the power vested in me, under the Cooperative Act CAP 152, Part 11, Section 58 (1), (a), I am satisfied that the Committee of the Apma Financial Investment Centre Cooperative Savings and Loan Society is not performing its functions in a proper and business like manner and that in the circumstances of the case, it is fit that I as the Registrar of Cooperatives make this order to dissolve the existing committee.

“Further, in exercise of the power vested in me, under the Cooperative Societies (Rules) Order No. 37 of 1987 Subsidiary Legislation, Section 26 (1), I hereby order your removal from the office you are currently occupying and all dealings of the Apma Financial Investment Centre Cooperative Savings and Loans, throughout the country.”

Accordingly, Cooperative Registrar Ridley uses his power in compliance to Section 58, 1 (b), and appointed Hillary Waqanitoga, the Loans Officer to AFIC, to be the Interim Manager until such time when the Registrar sees fit to establish a Board of Directors to oversee AFIC Cooperative Savings and Loans.

In her capacity as the Administrator, Mrs. Waqanitoga was instructed to work with Compliance Manager of Office of the Registrar of Cooperatives & Business Development Services (ORCBDS) to fulfil recommendations, work with the Reserve Bank Vanuatu to fulfil recommendations as per RBV report, and ensure loan repayments are made from individuals and businesses including Bujunbana Holdings. She was also tasked to produce monthly progressive reports or as requested by the Registrar, she must be prepared to work with a Commission of Inquiry which will be appointed soon, take control of all AFIC branches and perform any other duties as required by the Registrar.

The dissolution of the Committee of AFIC and appointment of the Administrator/ Interim Manager became effective as of yesterday afternoon.

Barnabas Tabi founded AFIC in 2013 as a Cooperative Savings and Loans. It boasts to have 49 branches across the country with thousands of members.

Appeals for Vanuatu to seek dialogue with Poland on kava ban

Vanuatu’s former Ambassador to the European Union is appealing to the government to seek dialogue with the Polish Ambassador in Canberra to discuss the kava ban in Poland.

Roy Micky Joy says the government should send a diplomatic note through the Vanuatu High Commission in Canberra to make this happen.

Poland is warning travellers not to bring the mild sedative into the country as kava is classified alongside hard drugs like cocaine.

This is despite Poland being part of the European Union which has recently resumed importing kava.

Mr Joy said he questioned why 26 members of the European Parliament stay silent on the issue of kava while one member, Poland, bans the drink from its shores.

He said Poland’s kava ban goes back to 2005, and that may allow Vanuatu and Poland to engage in political dialogue towards finding an amicable solution to the kava ban.

Call for dialogue over kava ban

Former Ambassador Roy Mickey Joy championed market access for kava in EU, By Len Garae
Former Ambassador Roy Mickey Joy championed market access for kava in EU, By Len Garae

The issue of kava in the 27-member European Parliament has been agreed to as a “bilateral issue” and according to Vanuatu’s former Dean of Ambassadors to the EU, Roy Mickey Joy, this is understood.

Regarding Poland’s position on kava, the former senior diplomat says, “My advice is for the Vanuatu Government through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to request through a diplomatic note through the Vanuatu High Commission in Canberra to the Polish Embassy in Canberra, to kick-start the process of dialogue. That is the first part.

“The second part, I think the work done by the ACP and EU through the consultants who were engaged for many years on kava (before, during and after the ban) and the great work that’s been done through the Ministry of Agriculture and the FAO in Rome, is an adequate representation of the technical scientific work that’s been completed on kava and there should be no issue on this.

“We respect the sovereignty of a sovereign states like Poland therefore it is to the interest of Vanuatu that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs establish dialogue with the Polish Embassy in Canberra, with a view to concluding the issue as soon as possible.”

He says the European Parliament will soon debate the issue of kava entering all EU member states including Poland.

While that may proceed soon, he advises, “I think it is of great interest that the Government of Vanuatu ought to intervene through a diplomatic note through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as soon as possible, with a view to open up dialogue leading to the Polish Government taking a positive position on the issue of kava”.

He describes the situation on kava in Poland as “paradoxical” for 26 member states to keep silent on the issue and allow Poland to “raise its own flag on kava”.

“I do not know how many ni-Vanuatu live in Poland but I know for a fact that there are Polish kava consumers in Poland and that is something I realized when I was still in Brussels,” he says.

He is confident the issue regarding kava in Poland is an ideal opportunity for political engagement between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Polish Embassy in Canberra to find a long lasting solution to facilitating market access of kava to Poland.

During the EU/ACP Joint Council of Ministers Meeting in Port Vila in 2012, then Deputy Prime Minister Ham Lini Vanuaroroa, capitalized on the delegates present to invite approximately 80 of them to drink kava for the first time at his nakamal at Teouma.

 “As Vanuatu’s Ambassador to the EU, I was also present and our diplomatic guests were treated to one of the best kava in the world, prepared and served in Pentecost traditional way through ‘bwasisi’ and nobody died, and some of them went back to Brussels with kava powder, while others came to the Vanuatu Embassy and asked for kava and I told them, ‘Sorry we don’t sell kava in the Embassy’.

“That kava session at Teouma was a major public relations breakthrough that the Deputy Prime Minister Ham Lini Vanuaroroa did,” he explains.

The kava ceremony also broke the ice to prove to the EU/ACP delegates that kava was not harmful to the drinker.

It was later used as evidence in the German court to throw the DfArM allegation out the window that kava made the drinker sick.

Source: DailyPost Vanuatu

Kava Banned in Poland

Promoter of Vanuatu and Vanuatu kava in Poland, Dawid Chajman, is advising everyone entering his country to be “very, very careful” and not bring even one kilogram of kava saying, they stand the risk of being jailed because kava remains a highly dangerous drug.

Even though Poland is a full member of the European Union, kava has been banned in his country since 2005.

He says the situation in Poland is very different to the one in Germany.

Kava was banned back in 2005 when the Polish Government was trying to fight against the so called “legal highs” and “new drugs”.

Chajman explains, “It created a very long list of psychoactive substances and without giving any explanation, it was decided that kava would become listed in the same category as heroin, cocaine, amphetamine, LSD and so on.

“In other words, kava is officially classified as the most dangerous drug the consumption of which is not allowed under any circumstances.

“Technically speaking, there is no legal difference between transporting one kilogram of heroin and one kilogram of kava through Poland, so this is something that travelers from Vanuatu should be aware of.

“From what we know, Poland is the only country in Europe with such restrictive regulations concerning kava and the only country in the world where mere possession of kava can result in a prison sentence.

“Kava has never been particularly popular in Poland and very few people know what it is, which means that even many officials are unaware of the ban but it is still technically part of the legislation and the penalties are technically potentially so harsh that one should be really, really careful.”

A few years ago a group of friends of Vanuatu and friends of kava established ‘The Campaign to relegalize kava in Poland’ (Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/legalnakava) and tried to persuade the Government to change its stance, but so far their success has been limited.

“We have the backing of a couple of members of parliament and last year we managed to persuade the Chief Sanitary Inspectorate’s office to issue a declaration supporting relegalization we heed to actually persuade the Ministry of Health and the relevant parliamentary committee.

“That declaration was important because the Sanitary Inspectorate analyzed kava and found it to be safe and not posing any kind of significant threat to health or social order.

“But we do need more political support for any change to happen.

“Some of us have tried to get in touch with Ambassador Roy Micky Joy to support our struggle, but he has not replied to our correspondence.”

Meanwhile, a report from the New York Times on December 21, 2017 reported that kava growth in terms of consumption has been rapid in New York in the United States of America.

The New York Times reported that New York didn’t have a kava bar until 2015. Since then, growth has been rapid.

“It’s blown up — just through word of mouth it really took off faster than we expected,” said Harding Stowe, a founder of Brooklyn Kava.

“I think people can really use it in New York, almost more than they need it over there.

”There are so many people here that are overworked and just stressed,” Stowe told the New York Times.

According to the New York Times, while United States regulators have issued health advisories related to its consumption in the past, kava has never been a controlled substance under the Food and Drug Administration, the Federal Controlled Substances Act or New York State regulations.

Source: Vanuatu DailyPost