Enhancing youth employment and economic sustainability for Ra farmersSep 19, 2016
Ra, Fiji: “Tropical Cyclone Winston hit us early this year, we now heavily depend on our farms to help us recover,” said the Turaga ni Koro or the village chief of Nabalabala Village in Ra.
The Engaging Youth in Organic Farming programme will assist the TC Winston recovery efforts by training youth in organic agriculture and product development and promoting linkages between the agriculture and tourism sectors of these countries from the organic farms to hotel tables or retail outlets. The programme supports youth in Fiji, Samoa and Vanuatu and was recently launched for Fiji at Nabalabala Village in Ra.
“This project will really help us and it will help us quickly because it will provide us the market to sell our crops. We have the land and the labour but the market is our biggest challenge. Finding a buyer is hard and many times we’ve had to drop our prices so we can sell and bring some money home to provide for our families.”
With a good number of young farmers in Ra and the surrounding villages, many share the same sentiments as their Turaga ni Koro.
Twenty seven year old farmer of Nabalabala village in Ra, Ilai Bavou said, “The weather can be unpredictable but recently the weather has been favorable and the harvest good but we would wait whole day by the road for someone to buy our farm produce, and when evening comes these produce are wasted away and no sale has been made.”
The Ra farmers have realised the increasing consumer demand in the international market for organic commodities and see this as a viable opportunity to benefit from.
The two-year United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) ‘Farm to Table’ project is in partnership with the Pacific Organic and Ethical Trade Community (POETCom) and funded by UNDP’s Sustainable Development Fund (SDG-F).
During the launch of the project in Fiji, Inclusive Growth Team Leader at the UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji, Asif Chida, said that the country has a great potential to brand itself as the Organic Fiji, especially after it gained a stronger name recognition following a Gold medal win at the Rio Olympics.
“Fiji can capitalize on its comparative advantage and the world is looking for something unique and genuine and organic produce is the way to go. It is a multi-billion dollar industry globally, and Fiji has a great opportunity to take a slice of this market share. For this, we need to develop a quality, consistent supply of products with proper packaging and labelling - we need to support the organic farmers with dependable supply and value chain.”
Fewer youth see the agriculture sector as an attractive employment option, and are moving to other pastures. This leads to migration from rural and outer islands to towns and cities, food insecurity, and health issues as people opt for unhealthy food that are often imported.
Chida added, “To reverse this situation and make agriculture viable, an option is to promote organic farming and we need to make this sector more attractive to young people”
This project was piloted in Samoa during the Small Island Developing States Conference in 2014 and is now being implemented in Fiji and Vanuatu.
The project is a US$2million initiative with contributions also from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the European Union.