NATION

Visually-Impaired Farmer Becomes One Of First To Receive Cash For Crops Initiative

The 79-year-old said he has been involved in farming for 26 years focusing on vegetables.
18 Mar 2021 10:30
Visually-Impaired Farmer Becomes One Of First To Receive Cash For Crops Initiative
Ba farmer Bishun Dutt with his wife, Rambha Wati after receiving their ‘Cash for Cultivation’ assistance in Ba on March 17, 2021. Photo: Nicolette Chambers

A visually-impaired farmer in Ba has become one of the first recipients for the Ministry of Agriculutre’s Cash for Cultivation initiative.

Bishun Dutt was among 116 farmers in the Western Division to receive part of the cash promised to farmers through the initiative.

Mr Dutt became visually-impaired 12 years ago after an illness, but that did not stop him from doing what he does best – farming.

Ba farmers with the Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Waterways, Mahendra Reddy (front row, middle) after receiving their first tranche of the ‘Cash for Cultivation’ in Ba on March 17, 2021. Photo: Susana Hirst-Tuilau

Ba farmers with the Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Waterways, Mahendra Reddy (front row, middle) after receiving their first tranche of the ‘Cash for Cultivation’ in Ba on March 17, 2021. Photo: Susana Hirst-Tuilau

He owns a 10-acre farm in Raviravi.

He is always assisted by his wife, Rambha Wati, 67.

“I plant eggplant, watermelon, cucumber, pumpkin, duruka and long beans,” he said.

“Even though I am blind now, I still go out to the farm. I enjoy doing vegetable farming.”

Like the other recipients, Mr Dutt received $75 yesterday and will receive the remaining $125 after harvesting.

Widow, Salanieta Tuta told how she had to readjust to manage a 12-acre farm after her husband died a year ago.

Being the sole breadwinner of the family since Mr Gata’s passing only meant that the mother of five children had to work extra hard to put food on the table.

She uses six acres to plant sugarcane and the remaining portion to plant vegetables.

“This assistance will help me to plant more vegetables now and help me to support the family,” she said.

Meeting demand

At the handover in Ba, Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Waterways Mahendra Reddy said the initiative was important because it would prepare farmers to meet the demand of the tourism industry when borders open.

“As you know the Fijian population is getting vaccinated,” he said.

“The first lot of people, who are being vaccinated, are frontline workers and once everyone is vaccinated in Fiji, once everyone is vaccinated in New Zealand, Australia and other countries then the likelihood of borders opening up is very high. Then once our border opens then our tourism sector will start and there will be demand for vegetables.

“At the moment the vegetables that farmers are producing are being consumed locally and are exported.

Ba farmers with the Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Waterways, Mahendra Reddy (front row, middle) after receiving their first tranche of the ‘Cash for Cultivation’ in Ba on March 17, 2021. Photo: Susana Hirst-Tuilau

Ba farmers with the Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Waterways, Mahendra Reddy (front row, middle) after receiving their first tranche of the ‘Cash for Cultivation’ in Ba on March 17, 2021. Photo: Susana Hirst-Tuilau

“When the hotels open the demand will triple or quadruple and we don’t want to find ourselves in a situation where we are not ready to supply to the hotels and the other sectors.

“We are now talking to the hotel industry saying that they should now look within. They should stop importing vegetables, they should buy it locally. The question is, are we ready?”

The ‘Cash for Cultivation’ programme is part of the immediate recovery after the devastation caused by Tropical Cyclones Yasa and Ana.

The assistance is from the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) Fiji and the Ministry of Agriculture as part of the Strengthening Early Recovery for Food Security and Livelihoods (SERFSAL) project funded by the NZ Aid Programme.

Edited by Ranoba Baoa

Feedback: nicolette.chambers@fijisun.com.fj



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