December 4, 2020. Suva, Fiji. NINE women are amongst the first 16 Pacific Islanders to have a Micro-Qualification in Maintaining Seafood Safety and Quality through scholarships offered by the University of the South Pacific (USP) under the Pacific-European Union Marine Partnership (PEUMP) Programme.
The 16 awardees went through a two-week vigorous hands-on practical and theory assessment to equip them with necessary skills to improve seafood safety and quality from ‘hook to plate’, which ended today.
The micro-qualification was timely, given that entire communities and families have become increasingly reliant on the ocean for sustenance and income in most parts of the Pacific, as the pervasive effects of the global pandemic, COVID-19, has seen major job losses.
Benjamin Narayan, who was amongst laid off workers at the Air Terminal Services (ATS) in Nadi, Fiji turned to the sea to feed his family in Lautoka by selling seafood from his home from March this year.
“This micro-qualification is very important for me as I travel to meet fisher folk to buy seafood. These learnings will help me to ensure maximum quality control is in place because as a seafood entrepreneur, I travel distances with the spoils of the sea. This training has given me an opportunity to provide the same guidance to my suppliers. My customers deserve seafood that is free from bacteria and chemicals,” he said.
Rakiraki fisherwoman and seafood entrepreneur, Kesaia Kaisuva, said as a single mum she ventured into fishing, selling seafood both cooked and freshly harvested and the main challenge she had to overcome was to retain freshness and shelf life.
“As Pacific Islanders know seafood either cooked or raw can perish. I have learnt so many new tactics that I can use to ensure I never sell cooked seafood that is spoilt as freshness is essential to customers buying seafood. I only sell seafood that is sustainably caught myself if I am buying from fisherfolk I ensure the process used has not harmed our Pacific Ocean,” she said.
Director of the Catholic Women’s League (Teitoiningaina) for the Diocese of Tarawa and Nauru, Ioanna Nabura, who has been stranded in Fiji due to border closures said with Kiribati relying on marine resources for livelihoods and government revenue, the 33,000 women she works with play a crucial role that needs to be recognised and at the same time the learnings provided to her is an opportunity to ensure she passes on the knowledge and skills she has learnt.
The Deputy Head of the European Union (EU) Delegation for the Paciﬁc, Dr. Erja Askola, while congratulating the awardees said: ”The EU is proud to have helped the beneficiaries achieve these essential skills, all the more so in the current context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The EU is a key importer of fish and seafood from this region. This brings a particular interest in and responsibility over sustainable management of marine resources and food safety for the benefit of artisans and small entrepreneurs in coastal communities. The EU is happy to partner with Sweden, the USP and other regional organisations to translate the “farm to fork” strategy of the European Green Deal into “hook to plate” in the context of the blue Pacific.”
USP Associate Dean Planning and Quality, Faculty of Science, Technology and Environment, Dr Francis Mani, said at the core of this intervention was the thought of how to provide a hand up approach to coastal communities through education and ensure that everyone has the right to education, irrespective of gender, age or ethnicity but meeting the criteria set out to be eligible for the scholarships.
“Also I am very proud and would like to congratulate the USP PEUMP Programme as despite all the complex challenges we turned them into opportunities, and as we taught, we also learnt from each other during the delivery of the historical micro qualifications that only Pacific Islanders hold,” he said.
Twelve of the awardees are also part of the 41 Pacific Islanders who are the first to have been awarded the Micro-qualification in Establishing and Operating a Small Seafood Business certificate through scholarships by the USP PEUMP Programme.
The USP is one of four key implementing partners of the overall PEUMP Programme, an initiative funded by the European Union and the Government of Sweden. The USP, as an implementing partner, focuses on building capacities for Pacific islanders through education, training, research and development in fisheries and marine resources management.
The overall EUR 45 million Programme promotes sustainable management and sound ocean governance for food security and economic growth, while addressing climate change resilience and conservation of marine biodiversity. It follows a comprehensive approach, integrating issues related to ocean fisheries, coastal fisheries, community development, marine conservation and capacity building under one single regional action.