Women farmers building resilience in their community
“The tomatoes will be ready for harvest very soon and we will need to pick and sell them everyday so not to waste them. I never imagined that we could do more than the backyard farming we used to do because our land is prone to flooding,” says Faimun Nisha of Talaiya, Ba.
- 38 community groups have been working on the land of total around 90 acres cultivating vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, longbeans, etc. and root crops including taro, cassava, yam and kumala.
- Their farms are expected further to benefit around 15,000 people at community level. More than 20 groups have so far successfully harvested.
- The project supported 17 women’s group at community level among youth (18) and cooperatives (three). Women consists 61 percent of total number of direct beneficiaries of the project.
Faimun is one of the five women who make up the Talaiya Multi-racial Women’s Group, farming on one acre of land that spreads over into the next settlement. Like many people living in Western Fiji, she experienced three major floods within a year - the twin floods of early 2012 followed by tropical Cyclone Evan that hit the area in December 2012 – that destroyed houses, livestock and farms.
A UNDP-supported project, Enhancing Livelihood Recovery through Increasing Food Security in the aftermath of Natural Disasters, in collaboration with the Ministry of Primary Industries and the Ministry of Finance and Strategic Planning, National Development & Statistics, is helping communities to sustain their livelihoods and build their resilience in case of natural disasters through engaging in farming ventures and increasing food security. It is also supported by UNDP’s Bureau of Conflict Prevention and Recovery, and Pacific Risk Resilience Programme.
The Post Disaster Needs Assessment conducted by the Government revealed that within the agriculture sector – the hardest hit productive sector – men make up 96 percent of “official” farmers. In recognizing women’s presence in the sector, which is concentrated in subsistence farming and unpaid farm labour, and ensuring gender inclusivity and greater impacts on the families well-being and food security, this project is supporting women’s groups, among others, youth and cooperatives.
The Talaiya Multi-racial Women’s Group is among 38 community groups who received a small grant from UNDP to start cash crop farming to diversify their source of income. The group members used to earn income by selling homemade sweets and handicrafts as well as engage in small scale subsistence backyard farming. Supported by the project, they have developed vegetable farming good practices and gained basic financial management skills. They have become more aware of the impacts of climate change and how it affects their farming and livelihoods, and the importance of disaster risk reduction measures and risk management.
Talking to the community groups involved in the project, the Department of Agriculture’s Senior Agriculture Officer, Viliame Mainawalala emphasized that “One of the key measures to increasing resilience is to diversify the crops you plant…prepare rather than respond.”
“Even my children help by picking cawpeas and selling to people passing along our street. They also gained experience on the farm as well as earned a small allowance for their stationary and bus fares for school,” said Faimun who has five children.
“We have small cash in hand everyday from our farm. It has enabled some of our women to take the bus to the hospital and receive regular check-ups,” she added. She saw families in the settlement who otherwise could not afford enough school materials for their children or seeing a doctor are benefitting from their farming venture.