The Pacific Island Farmers Organisation Network has launched the Pacific Islands Rural & Agriculture Stimulus Facility project (PIRAS) aimed at helping farmers in Fiji and Solomon Islands recover from the impact of the COVID pandemic.

A total of $1.5M will be available to PIFON  farmer organisation members in each target country who have been selected to lead the intervention based on existing relationships with target area communities and capacity to deliver over the next 3 years.

In a joint partnership announcement between the Network, the Australian Government and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), it was highlighted that the overall PIRAS initiative will directly target rural households vulnerable or potentially vulnerable to nutrition insecurity, while also maximising potential and driving productivity in food and nutrition security, safe post-harvest handling, local food preservation and functioning local markets.

The funds have been welcomed by farmers in Fiji and Solomon Islands.

The announcement comes after the Pacific Farmer Organisations commitment to work with multiple farmer organisations and agencies in response to the impacts of the COVID pandemic.

Speaking from Hawaii, executive director Kyle Stice said: “When COVID first started in early 2020, there was a huge disruption in our food systems and through our network of farmer organisations we were able to rapidly gather information and the voice of farmers to share with governments and development partners, and I am proud to say that many people were listening.”

“Over the past 18 months the conversation has been dominated by COVID-19 and its impacts on livelihoods; in both these cases, what we are seeing is that for farmers in the Pacific – climate change and now COVID-19 – are just amplifying the pressure of existing threats from natural disasters with the challenges of pests and diseases, accessing markets, accessing information, accessing planting materials and other resources.”

He added: “We are seeing that the sheer number of people who are relying on agriculture is increasing as workers have been displaced from tourism and other sectors. People are returning to traditional lands for farming to feed their families and to earn money and they are being faced with the same problems all our farmers have been facing for decades”.

The PIRAS initiative will allow farmer organisations in Fiji and Solomon Islands to provide support to rural women, men and youths, which the Pacific Island Farmers Organisation Network said would enable farmers to “increase farm production and respond to market changes as a result of Covid-19”.

It has been estimated that more than 20,000 people will be reached with the intervention of which 10 percent are expected to be female headed households.

The PIRAS project is funded by the Australian Government and IFAD.