NATION

Analysis : Research, Innovation To Make More Use Of Land Will Boost Economy

Fiji still has a long way to go to reach its full potential in the utilisation of its natural resources. The Attorney-General and Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, has said
13 Dec 2016 11:00
Analysis : Research, Innovation To Make More Use Of Land Will Boost Economy
Attorney-General and Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum speaking at the Attorney-General’s Conference at the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort and Spa, Natadola on Saturday. Photo: DEPTFO NEWS

Fiji still has a long way to go to reach its full potential in the utilisation of its natural resources.

The Attorney-General and Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, has said that for a small island economy like ours, we cannot afford to leave large tracts of land unproductive. He is right.

We have land, rivers and the sea not only as our natural resources, but also a national treasure.

What we need is innovative ideas to utilise these resources to bolster our economy.

Fijian history tells us that at one time we were exporting bananas. We had a thriving banana trade.

The tributaries to the Rewa River, including Wainibuka, Wainimala and Waidina, once produced a lucrative banana business that saw the rise of an iTaukei business venture called Viti Kabani.

It is not fully known what led to its demise but it showed that banana trade was a viable commercial project.

The question is why could it not be revived?

The land is still there and they are still producing bananas but for local consumption. It can be expanded to revive the export trade.

A recent television programme, produced by local artist and media personality Manoa Rasigatale, revealed that Fiji once ran a tea and rubber trade during the colonial period in parts of Vanua Levu.

They suffered a similar fate as the banana trade. Again they showed that there was potential there to develop those two industries.

The remains of those business ventures are still visible today.

Machines that used to process tea leaves and rubber are rusting in the fields.

We can be self sufficient with these two commodities at least if we are able to revive their production. Once they are up and running we can expand them for imports.

Obviously, an initial survey needs to be carried out to find out what had happened in the past and what caused their demise.

One of the reasons could be the high costs incurred, because of transport and other technical problems through lack of infrastructure.

Today, the Government’s focus on building national infrastructure and other incentives would eliminate those problems.

In line with what Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said, we should seriously look at reviving these industries because we have the natural resources.

The cotton trade was also among those industries developed by the early settlers.

We now have more intellectual capacity or brain power to look at these areas and come up with ideas on how best we can develop  these resources.

We do not have to wait for foreigners to come and tell us how to do things. While we appreciate the contributions they give us, we should invest in research and innovation to develop our resources.

Countries that have recorded impressive economic growth, have done so with investment in education, research and innovation.

While the country has done reasonably well with its economic performance despite the natural disasters, there is scope for more growth and expansion.

The crab producing business venture is a perfect example. It uses the natural habitat of the mangrove swamps as the breeding ground for crabs, a local delicacy.

While this is being carried out on the coast not far from Suva, it can be replicated in many other areas in Fiji particularly among coastal and river villages.

Prawn and fish farms on a commercial basis can also be developed for the export market.

Agricultural, fisheries and environmental streams in courses and programmes offered by our tertiary institutions need to be tailor-made to be compatible with national plans to grow our economy.

We have talked enough about this in the past. It’s time to do it.

Feedback:  nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

 


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