The Ministry of Agriculture in collaboration with the Pacific Community (SPC), organized the third Fiji Agriculture Rural Advisory Services (FAAS) Forum, in a joint effort to promote effective partnership in agriculture extension and rural advisory services in Fiji.
The 3rd FAAS which was held at the Tanoa Skylodge Hotel, Nadi recently, re-emphasises the project goal “to empower poor smallholder farmers and producer organizations in Asia-Pacific Region (APR) through access to improved, more effective, and demand-driven agricultural advisory services”.
This initiative is funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in partnership with Pacific Islands Rural Advisory Services (PIRAS), the Asia-Pacific Islands Rural Advisory Services (APIRAS), and Agricultural Extension in South Asia (AESA) through a catalytic project titled: “Supporting Smallholder Farmers in Asia and Pacific Islands Region through Strengthened Agricultural Advisory Services (SAAS)”.
While addressing the forum, Deputy Secretary Corporate Services and Planning for the Ministry of Agriculture, Vatimi Rayalu reaffirmed the Ministry’s commitment and support towards the project.
“The Ministry of Agriculture has already embarked on the modernization program and the sector has shown significant growth of 11% in 2017 with a forecast of further growth.
Rayalu reiterated that Government through the Ministry of Agriculture, would continue to support the initiative as it was in line with the Ministry’s objective of modernizing the sector and the promotion of sustainable agriculture production to support the livelihoods of smallholder producers.
“To achieve the goal of the project, we need to bring these smallholder producers together and empower them in terms of knowledge, their bargaining powers and pooling of their resources for greater security.”
“We have lessons to learn from countries that have done the same such as Bangladesh and the Philippines. In these countries bulk of the producers are small scale but they have managed to come out of being disadvantaged groups to being the powerhouse of the economy which is exactly what this project is about,” he added.
“Smallholder producers mostly focus on commodity prices and react accordingly and this affects consistency of supply. This happens because they feel financially insecure; we are here to talk about how we can empower these small-scale producers to be more secure. In this modern day and age the biggest security is financial security and that is what we want our small producers to have,” Rayalu said.
“Government over the years has provided assistance to farmers and it is our responsibility to ensure that the assistance is utilized as such that they achieve a better standard of living.”
The Ministry to that end is partnering with financial institutions and the private sector through the Fiji Agricultural Partnership Project (FAPP) to address hardships in remote rural communities of Fiji by engaging small-scale producers in sustainable farming and establishing of business partnerships in remote areas, particularly in the highlands.