May 16, 2021 Last Updated 6:06 PM, May 14, 2021

From coconut crab to chicken

Every household in Vanuatu’s Torres islands in Torba Province  will be provided with chicken wire to farm chickens,now that the harvesting of coconut crab, has been banned by the Ministry of Fisheries.

The ban is in place to allow the traditional income earner and delicacy’s stocks to recover after its overharvesting.

Dudley Wokson is Torba’s Livestock Officer from the Provincial Headquarters at Sola. He travelled to Port Vila recently to collect chicken wire for Torres farmers.

He says the ban on coconut crab has been in place for a year.

“This has prompted them to adopt a mind change to prepare to diversify to a new income earner. I believe this has helped them to prepare to readapt their way of life to start anew”, Wokson says.

The One Million Chickens Initiative aims to help chicken farmers to increase production in order to end the importation of chicken, chicken parts and eggs from abroad.

“This new initiative to creative a new project to help the people from Torres to continue to earn an income, will kick off before the end of the year”, Director of Livestock, Lonny Bong confirms.

The Shefa Province Small Animal Breeding Centre at Tagabe has just received 1,500 one day old chicks from New Zealand with more coming before the end of the year.

Director Bong says the new initiatives will not only drive the industry forward but create the next generation of farmers for tomorrow.

Vanuatu’s Director of Livestock is confident the nation will meet its targets on cattle farming, as long as land disputes do not impede its plans.

Vanuatu seeks to raise half a million heads of cattle by 2025, a mere five years away. Farming will concentrate on Erromango, Efate, Epi, Malekula and Santo Islands says the Department of Livestock and Small Livestock in the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry and Biosecurity (MALFB).

While the Director of Livestock, Lonny Bong, is optimistic of achieving the target, he says the ambitious cattle project may take longer than five years to achieve its target, due to a number of factors including land disputes.

The Director confirms recent reports that calves “have been dropping” on farms as far down as Aneitum in the South and as far North as Santo, the biggest island in the country.

However Bong is confident that with improved breeding programmes, the quality and quantity of meat on each carcass will meet targets.

No other island country in the Pacific has attempted to embark on such an ambitious cattle programme, and Bong has acknowledged the European Union for recognising the importance of the country’s cattle restocking programme and injecting funds through EDF – 11 to finance it.

350 cattle farmers have been selected to participate in the project. “Our Officers will be deployed to enter the farms to carry out a farm survey on each farm”, Director Bong says.

“It is critically important to establish the base line data to measure progress. It is vital that we know the exact number of new calves that have been dropped since the introduction of the new heads”.

EDF – 11 will also be used to improve pasture, water accessibility, extension programmes, animal health programmes, training in cattle husbandry and other relevant programmes for farmers there.

Jobless numbers soar in Fiji

  • May 17, 2021
  • Published in August

Unscripted and unplanned, Fijians have returned quietly to the land and the sea over the past months as the impacts of job losses brought about by the COVID19 pandemic began to bite.

In the tourism belts of Nadi and nearby Sigatoka, former hotel and resort workers – in their hundreds – are turning to farming and fishing virtually overnight.

Necessity is driving them, and no one knows when, how, or indeed if, this quiet revolution will end.
“With many in the village losing their work, we no longer have a steady income to buy food so we’re planting our own,” says Epeli Ganilau.
He is Turaganikoro, village administrator of Sanasana, the traditional owners of the land which hosts the multi-million dollar InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa and the Natadola Bay Championship Golf Course.

With almost all the men and women in the village laid off work from the resort and its neighbouring golf course, Sanasana has revived their youth and women clubs to spearhead the return to subsistence farming and fishing.

Other villages in Fiji’s tourism belt on Viti Levu’s west coast and Vanua Levu’s south coast around Savusavu town have done the same; closure of hotels and supporting businesses has driven jobless men, women and youths back to subsistence farming, or fishing.

Figures are daunting, and likely to worsen

A survey of tourism businesses by the International Finance Corporation and Fiji’s Ministry of Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport found that if the current situation doesn’t change by this November (a likely scenario given recent increases in COVID diagnoses in the Australian and New Zealand source markets), over 500 of the 3,569 businesses surveyed anticipate bankruptcy. If international travel does not resume within six months, 60.5% of those surveyed will close or move away from the tourism sector.

The study further found that 20% of tourism businesses are currently unable to service their debt, and a further 16% expect to default on their debt within one to four months, and have called for loan repayment moratoria, further tax reductions/holidays, and financial support for recovery and rent deferral.

Meanwhile a study by the International Labour Organisation on the impact of COVID-19 on employment also released at the end of last month found half of the workers surveyed had lost their jobs, and most of those still in employment were on reduced hours. More than half of redundant workers said they could not find jobs and needed financial support, and 46% had ventured into subsistence living and operating a microbusiness. Almost all (99%) said the government should do more to protect their jobs and rights, “instead of depleting their retirement fund.”

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Back to farming Fiji goes

  • May 17, 2021
  • Published in July

Fresh from a 10-day tour of Viti Levu - Fiji’s main island - our July cover story shares what we saw as Fijians adjust to the economic and social shocks brought about by the COVID19 pandemic. Employees of now-closed hotels and resorts who live in villages are falling back to subsistence farming and fishing. For the many more families who live outside these communities and who pay rent or mortgage in Sigatoka, Nadi and Lautoka, the adjustments are much harder. Relief offered by the Fijian Government like withdrawing their pensions while helpful, are temporary, and many are resorting to other means to earn income. They include 2014 Miss World Fiji, Charlene Tafuna’i who lost her job as an aircraft engineer at Nadi International Airport and is a regular at the VOTCITY Flea Market in Nadi. Thousands more do not qualify for pension withdrawals nor have the means to venture into business and this is where the work done by non-governmental organisations like the Foundation for Rural Integrated Enterprises N Development and the Then India Sanmarga Ikya Sangam in providing food packs and free school lunches respectively is life saving.

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