Analysis | NATION

Agriculture Ministry Providing For Fijians Over Next 8 Months

Minister Mahendra Reddy and his team have wasted no time in promoting backyard gardening as well as providing sugarcane farmers an alternative, rice.
23 Apr 2020 09:33
Agriculture Ministry Providing For Fijians Over Next 8 Months
Mahendra Reddy

Analysis:

The Ministry of Agriculture has kick-started a wide range of projects to provide every Fijian household with seedlings of fruits and vegetables.

Minister Mahendra Reddy and his team have wasted no time in promoting backyard gardening as well as providing sugarcane farmers an alternative, rice.

Over the next eight months, 200,000 Fijian households will each be provided with:

  1. One coconut seedling (which households can use for a variety of purposes);
  2. Two cuttings for Drumstick tree (highly nutritious superfood)
  3. One seedling of Breadfruit (rich in fibre);
  4. Two Tivoli (Wild Yam Variety) tuber cutting (annual crop with the ability of natural regeneration and accepted as a climate-resilient crop).

Not only that. Fiji has to understand that there will be a time when we will not be able to sustain our sugar industry. It is commendable that the Agriculture Ministry is providing cane farmers with materials to start rice farming. Mills will also be provided so that farmers can mill their own rice for personal consumption.

And, this is not a short-sighted approach either. Fijians will be reaping benefits of it progressively which will not only assist Fijians but also our economy.

Did you know that in 2019, Fiji imported $42.6m worth of rice, equivalent to around 40,000 metric tonnes of rice?

About 8000 metric tonnes of rice is produced and consumed locally and historically, we have achieved around 66 per cent self-sufficiency of rice production.

For rice, the Agriculture Ministry will:

  • Provide rice seeds up to 30kg (for one-acre farms) to every Sugarcane farmer.
  • Provide rice seeds up to 30kg (for one-acre farms) to every non-sugarcane farmer.
  • Provide small portable rice mills close to their area when rice paddy is ready for milling;
  • Provide rice seeds to all 1100 villages for community-based rice farming.
  • Apart from this, expressions of interest will be called from interested households and six to 12-day-old chicks will be provided for those interested in rearing chickens.

Cuba a case study:

Cuba has shown the world what can be achieved if citizens buy into the idea of backyard gardening and subsistence farming.

It was done out of necessity and now they lead the charge on this front.

A report by Welthungerhilfe’s Julia Feldhausen explains how Cuba became the leader in backyard gardening.

In 1993 all food supplies in Cuba were depleted

The beginning of the 1990s was a time of extreme scarcity in Cuba. The food, goods and oil imports from the Soviet states on which the country depended vanished overnight with the collapse of the union. As a result of the shortage of fuel and replacement parts, agricultural production came almost entirely to a standstill.

Tractors and harvesting machines lay idle and any food still being produced could not be transported into the city.

By 1993 food supplies were almost entirely exhausted. In March of the same year, heavy flooding led to considerable and widespread destruction.

The supply situation was critical. The disastrous state of affairs – particularly in the capital Havana –  caused an international outcry. Manfred Hochwald, a Welthungerhilfe employee, was staying in Haiti at the time and made the snap decision to travel to Havana and see the situation for himself.

By chance, he encountered Elio Perón, the then president of the Asociación Cubana para la Producción Animal (ACPA). From their first conversation, it was clear: there was a need for action.

“People planted vegetables on the patio and on the balcony, they kept rabbits on the roof and bred chickens in garages”, remembers Elio Perón. “It was here that the urban agriculture movement began. At the beginning, it was completely unorganised.”

In Welthungerhilfe’s second Cuban project, this movement was supported at a grassroots level. The new city farmers were equipped with seeds, spades, wheelbarrows and hoses for watering.

Learning from Cuba:

Fiji has underutilised land in abundance. Now is the time for action, a project which has been successful elsewhere can also turn the Fijian economy around and provide employment and food security to families.

Feedback: jyotip@fijisun.com.fj

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