Farming as a business in Fiji

By Tevita Ravumaidama and Monica Romano

Fiji is an archipelago in the south Pacific of more than 300 islands. According to 2015 estimates, approximately 43 per cent of the population lives in rural areas, and more than one third of its population lives in poverty. IFAD's work in the country focuses on outer islands and remote areas. The country's agricultural sector generates close to 13 per cent of the nation's GDP while it employs 70 per cent of its labour force. There is strong demand for domestically produced agricultural products, and there is great potential in developing value chains and commercial relationships.

When Isei Namacamaca moved back to his village Nadrau in Navosa province after several years in the city, he decided to become a farmer. And with support from his relatives, Isei established his farm where he was mostly growing traditional crops (root crops) and vegetables with limited knowledge on appropriate farm management practices and production technologies (such as seedling production, composting, and post-harvesting handling). He also had limited business orientation in farming.

He participated in the activities and training supported under the Partnership in High Value Agriculture (PHVA) programme, an IFAD-supported grant implemented by the local NGO Partners in Community Development Fiji – PCDF, targeting a number of villages and  settlements in an impoverished area of Nadarivatu on Fiji’s main island of Viti Levu. This USD 500,000 grant implemented during 2012-2015 worked to increase the incomes of the 200 participating farmers by 20 per cent  from their production of high value products such as tomatoes, capsicum, zucchini, English cabbage, carrots, watermelon and many others, through enhanced market linkages and community empowerment.

Through the support of the grant, Isei attended several trainings aiming to help enhance his agricultural production and shift to an approach of developing farming as a business. The training included farm- and land-use management, vegetable husbandry practices, post-harvest management practices, entrepreneurship, financial literacy and management. He now grows tomatoes, capsicum, cabbage, potatoes and zucchini on his three-acre land, all with a good profit.

Results

What were the improvements that made a difference for his business? When last April Isei attended the first stakeholder workshop of the IFAD-funded Fiji Agricultural Partnership Project (FAPP), which will scale up some of PHVA’s approaches, he shared his experience. He indicated that the most important things he learned were shifting to organic production limiting the use and quantities of  agricultural chemicals, and the business aspects related to farming.

Isei’s achievements resulting from participation in the training and adopting the new technology are significant. In three years, his income from farming increased by 80-100 per cent through high value crops alone. He also gets income from sales of traditional crops. In addition Isei has increased the size of his farm and is now able to sell all farm produces. With his increased income, he can send all his children to school and support his grandchildren. He also established a family canteen, a small retail shop selling basic food items,  opened a savings account, and contributes to village obligations, church activities, and other family needs.

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