Fiji farmers receive a boost for soil
Dalo farmers on Fiji's Taveuni island receive aid to boost soil quality and improve export production.
The head of the Fiji Community Development Programme says a new resource centre for farmers will help improve crop yields.
Michael Brownjohn told Jenny Meyer the Australian Aid initiative will give farmers on Fiji's third largest island of Taveuni both advice and fertiliser to tackle major soil degradation.
MICHAEL BROWNJOHN; Historically the bulk of the farming has been for root crops, mainly dalo or taro, which is a major root crop in Fiji and other Pacific Islands. And the farmers in Taveuni relied heavily on growing and exporting dalo for their income. And what they were finding was that the quality of the dalo, the size of the dalo was reducing, and so the export grade dalo on Taveuni was reducing in size quite significantly over a relatively short period of time due to soil degradation.
JENNY MEYER; So what specifically will happen in a practical sense with this funding and money that's going to the people there?
MB; A lot of work that's being done in the last few years to work with farmers to look at sustainable farming practices. Tei Tei Taveuni has been advocating for these sustainable farming practices for a while and they've been trained to work with farmers to do that. And the other work that's being done in the past few years has looked at diagnosing and recommending soil treatments for farms. So this project coming in a little bit later is looking at providing funding to Tei Tei Taveuni to buy in a mix of chemical and organic fertilizers that aren't currently available in Taveuni, which they will then on sell to their farming groups, with the hope that of course the soil will improve, farming practices will improve. But also it will create a revolving fund so that this store of a mix of good inputs or fertilisers can be sustained into the future.
JM; And how many farmers do you expect over all will benefit from this scheme?
MB; At this stage we're looking at between two and three thousand, it's up to three thousand farmers on the island so it's significant percentage of the population on Taveuni who rely on farming for income. And we're also looking through this process at potentially diversifying some of the farming practices. So more diversified crops so that there's a year round income source through their farming.
Michael Brownjohn says he also hopes the practice of clearing inland forests for crops will stop as the soil quality begins to improve.
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