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November 2012

Fiji Hub Achievement Report

Success of Agricultural Diversification Projects in the Yasawas


Agriculture in the Yasawas Historically, agriculture in the Yasawas has lacked planning, diversity, and development resulting in poor access to a variety of fruits and vegetables. The main goal of the GVI Agriculture initiative has been to re-focus community efforts on the diversification of agriculture as a source of better nutrition, food security, and alternative income. Our research teams have found that Cassava and Dalo along with some pineapple and breadfruit are the main crops grown in the Northern Yasawas. That diet - mainly starch and root vegetables supplemented with fish - lacks nutritional diversity and may contribute to a rising incidence of diabetes in adults and vitamin deficiency in children. Recent reports from the Fijian Ministry of Health have also indicated that a high proportion of the students at Ratu Meli Memorial School on Nacula, where GVIs Education Program is based, suffer from malnutrition, affecting both their general health and ability to concentrate in school. Initial Project Goal Our initial goal was to start a vegetable garden in each village and at the RMMS School, using a method of mixed farming to introduce a consistent supply of fresh fruit and vegetables. Due to extended dry seasons, limited access to reliable water sources and lack of expertise most of the vegetables had never been attempted to be grown before in any great quantity. Therefore our Construction team started a prototype garden on Tovuto Base. Headed by our Agricultural Expert, Esava Bainivalu, a variety of seeds were planted using various test methods. Within days shoots started to sprout, and weeks later the garden was deemed a success and thus ready to be replicated within the village communities.

Mixed Farming Mixed Farming is a specific technique by which a variety of different vegetables that complement each other and share a symbiotic relationship are planted together. The vegetables

November 2012
selected for use were; Long bean, French bean, Cucumber, Okra, Coriander, Watermelon, Lettuce, Chinese and English cabbage, Tomatoes, Eggplant and Maize. This was the first ever experience of this kind of mixed organic vegetable farming for the majority of the villages, who worked alongside our volunteers to start up the gardens. A plot of land was cleared, the seeds then distributed in a set order, and then followed up with weekly maintenance and care by our Construction team. The villagers were taught those methods, and in particular the processes and systems of permaculture by which two vegetables are planted next to each other so that they share resources in a beneficial way. An example of this would be planting the crop Maize alongside a Cabbage plot; Maize grows well in dry soil but cabbage requires a lot of water. By planting these together the cabbage absorbs most of the water leaving a dryer area for the maize to grow. This is what we refer to as a symbiotic relationship.

Vuaki Gardens; 2 weeks growth, Long bean, French bean, Cucumber, Cabbage plots (left to right) Okra and Maize (below running parallel) Coriander (along the top)

By using this new, entirely organic method, a variety of vegetables can be grown during the hot season. The mixed farming method also acts as a source of biological pest control as it can reduce the spreading of pests from one vegetable to another. Next year, we are hoping to use insects as another source of natural biological pest control. Since there is no need for chemical pest control we reduce the amount of run-off pollution in order to further protect both long term soil fertility and marine ecosystems.

November 2012

Village Gardens Vuaki, Malakati, Nacula, Nasisilli Youth Project Development The Vuaki village gardens have been one of the the projects most notable successes thus far. Here our team worked with the Youth Community every Monday to develop a substantial plot of land. The youth have been growing large amounts of Long bean, French bean, Cucumber, Okra and Maize, and have started harvesting the produce. They have been so successful that each morning they have been taking orders from village community members, and even from a neighbouring resort. The gardens have created a new source of income for their village and a starting point for further agricultural expansion and development. The villagers are hoping to buy a printer with some of the funds to assist the business. These are otherwise known as Cash Crops! Naisisilli Womens Program In the village of Naisisilli the Construction team have been working with the local Womans Group. As in most villages, women have been complaining about the lack of opportunities for income and work available for the village communities. The gardens setup with the help of GVI have been seen as a way to aid in their village development. Every Tuesday, the volunteers work alongside 2/3 women of the community, helping them with their own garden plots as well as the community gardens, thus providing a source of income for their families. Ratu Meli Memorial School - Class Gardens Class gardens were developed to raise awareness of a nutritonally balanced diet as well as to enrich the school diet for both boarders and day students. The Carbohydrate heavy diet that is usually the only option- can be detrimental to the students ability to concentrate due to a severe lack of vitamins. Many meals involve nothing more than rice or cassava. Now the school is using fresh vegetables from the class gardens to add nutritional value to their meals, while at the same time the students are learning important life skills on how to cultivate the land and grow a variety of vegetables successfully.

November 2012
Class 4, RMMS The students of Class 4 were educated on the importance of maintaining their garden - an extremely practical skill for the island communities. Alongside our volunteers, they planted Cucumber, Watermelon, Eggplant, Cabbage and Carrots, learning the nutritional elements of each crop. Twelve weeks ago, in September, the students had nothing but a diet made up of starch and root vegetables, now they are eating vegetabes everyday, many of which were provided by the hardworking class 4. The success of class 4 encouraged the other classes to get further involved. Now the sixty boarders have their own gardens which will be ready for harvesting in the last week of November. The students can now provide themselves with better nutrtion. This is especially impressive in a school which was earlier this year deemed by the Ministry of Health to have a student population that was as much as 80% malnourished. Each week, GVI assists the classes to maintain the gardens allowing the team to help the students to continuously improve the gardens and learn new techniques ( a prize will be given on the last day of school for the best kept class garden). Next year we are hoping to build a large scale school vegetable farm which may have the capacity to enable the school to start an iniative to sell fresh produce to the neighbouring resorts. ______________________________________________________________________________

Future Goals In Nacula, Nasisilli and Malakati more and more of the youth have been requesting our assistance to start mixed farming on new sites. There are many opportunities to provide a more sustainable future for the communities of the Yasawas. The success of our agricultural initiative is proof of how feasible it is to grow a more diverse and varied crop. In 2013, we will ensure that villages have access to new agricultural training and methods. The diversification of agriculture in the Yasawas could not only improve nutrition and create alternative sources of income but also lead to environmental benefits for the region. As communities start to utilize more land for agriculture and income more emphasis will be put upon protect land assets from unnecessary slash and burn for instance. In Nacula, the planting of a type of paragrass has resulted in some reforestation along the coastline, where before, coastal erosion was a problem. The strong root enables the soil and sand to be held together. As a further goal, we hope to to start a large scale schedule of anti-erosion planting in 2013.

November 2012

Malakati Garden: November 2012