|Work together for best results – Bulai|
|Wednesday, 11 June 2014 19:08|
The Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), in collaboration with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, organised a one-day (9 June) roundtable discussion for the sugar and non-sugar stakeholders in the sugarcane belt areas of Fiji, with the shared objective of contributing to improved rural incomes in these areas. The meeting was held in Lautoka's Waterfront Hotel.
‘Without this, we will continue to duplicate efforts and waste limited resources, without achieving the required positive outcomes for our people,’ he warned.Sairusi Bulai – Acting Deputy Director of SPCs Land Resources Division – speaking at the opening, said that the meeting would provide a very important forum for stakeholders to freely discuss important issues relating to a broad-based, inclusive approach to the development and management of the agriculture sector, including the sugar sub-sector.
He added that the sugar industry was undergoing a lot of changes and the efforts being put in by the government, as well as the Fiji Sugar Corporation (FSC) and other stakeholders, in managing these changes should be supported to ensure minimum negative impacts on farmers, land-owners and all those who directly benefit from the industry.
Mr Bulai said that the European Union (EU) was providing significant financial support through a number of projects that SPC is implementing.
One of the projects, the Improved Key Services to Agriculture (IKSA) project, is supporting farmers' efforts to supplement their incomes from sugar-cane by integrating into their cropping system selected horticultural crops that are in high demand in export markets. Sugarcane farmers have been practising intercropping and the use of cover crops for a long time for their own consumption and/or for additional income. If certain improvements are made, there is a lot of scope for this to significantly benefit the farmers.
‘All of these EU-funded projects are focusing on improving the welfare of farmers, land-owners, workers and other communities affected by the sugar industry reforms being implemented,’ said Mr Bulai.
He added that, while these EU funding injections were necessary and important, it was only when the stakeholders started working together in a collaborative and integrated manner that maximum benefits could be realised by the target groups.
‘SPC is committed and will be pursuing this direction, beginning with the housing of all the EU-funded projects we are implementing in the same building in Lautoka to support effective integration, to facilitate ease of access to services by stakeholders and target groups, and to ensure that the big picture of supporting the sugar sector is not lost.’
In his closing remarks, the Deputy Secretary for Agriculture, Mr. Uraia Waibuta, expressed his appreciation to SPC and the Food and Agriculture Organization for organising the roundtable discussion. He added that the Ministry of Agriculture fully supported the initiative and would like to see it continued.
The meeting concluded with the formulation of a communiqué containing a number of steps to be followed towards formalising an arrangement, under which collaboration between the sugar and non-sugar stakeholders could be enhanced.