Mereia Volavola, Chief Executive Officer of PIPSO

Mereia Volavola

Mereia Volavola, the award winning CEO of the Pacific Island Private Sector Organisation (PIPSO) discusses the importance for the Pacific private sector of linking agriculture and tourism, and the opportunities it presents to enhance the economy and healthy eating.

Background:
Mereia Volavola has been the Chief Executive Officer of PIPSO since 2010. She has vast knowledge and experience in the area of Finance and Banking. Prior to joining PIPSO, Ms Volavola held the position of CEO of the Capital Markets Development Authority in Fiji. She has also worked for the Reserve Bank of Fiji, HFC Finance Ltd and Housing Authority. Mereia Volavola holds an MBA in Banking and Finance with a Distinction from the University of Wales, UK and a Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of the South Pacific in Economics and Business Management. She is also a Board Member of Merchant Finance.

Interview:

[Chefs4Dev:] PIPSO is one of the partners of Chefs for Development launched at the 1st Pacific Agribusiness Forum held in Fiji in July 2015. Why do you think it is important to link agriculture and tourism and promote healthy local food and what role can the private sector play?
Agriculture plays a very important role to the tourism industry. If the tourism industry are fed with only imported foods, then it provides very little benefit to the tourism industry and the overall economy as a whole. When the agriculture industry is linked to the tourism industry, it can supply the food required and reduce or eliminate imported foods. Besides, the local agriculture industry can provide some of the best and freshest foods that tourists from all over the world can enjoy. Furthermore these foods are planted and harvested in a very clean pristine environment. Added to that the consumption of wholesome food promotes healthy choices for both tourists and the local population.

The private sector plays a very important role as they are the producers and help in the processing, distribution and the promotion of the local foods. They provide the important linkage between these two industries.

What will you main areas of work in promoting the agritourism agenda in the region? What do you think is most needed and what actions are required?
The work would include supporting agribusiness value chains so that actors along the value chains gets the necessary support. It is important that PIPSO supports these businesses that have linkages to these two industries to reach their full potential. Work that are needed is the improvement in farming techniques, harvesting and processing, quality assurance, equipments for efficient productions, labelling, packaging, marketing and network with other businesses from the region and the world.

How is PIPSO partnering with other actors in promoting healthy diets and increasing local sourcing as a way to support local farmers and agribusiness? What are your future plans?
Promoting healthy diets is a very important agenda for all the Pacific islands in view of the alarming rates of NCDS. It is crucial that the population of these Pacific Islands countries are provided with local wholesome foods. The NCDs alarming rates have been attributed to the high consumption of processed food and it is important that the population reverts back to their traditional diets. The farmers and producers not only can supply the tourism industry but also the local markets. PIPSO will working with a number of development partners like FAO, IFAD, UNDP Pacific Centre, PCF, SPC and CTA to promote the increase and supply of local wholesome foods. This would mean providing technical and funding support to help growers, producers and/or assist in setting up value chains that would link rural farmers/producers with key local distributors.

More information:

Watch the video interview of Mereia Volavola (2014)

Watch Mereia Volovola discussing "Agribusiness development in the Pacific: challenges and opportunities for women" (September 17th 2015)

Watch Mereia Volavola discussing "Farm to table: opportunities and connections between farms and the tourism industry" (July 11th, 2014)