A short film highlighting the work of the European Union funded “Improvement to Key Services in Agriculture” (IKSA) project was launched in Suva today. The Euro 4.4 million IKSA project began in 2012 and is a six-year programme implemented by the Pacific Community (SPC). The project is working to support farmers in Fiji’s sugar cane belt to increase and improve production of horticultural crops through the provision of enhanced research and extension, nursery development and market access.

The 14-minute film, titled “Beyond the Cane Fields” shares stories from sugarcane farmers about their challenges and successes, as well as the impact that the work of the IKSA project has had on improving their livelihoods and providing them with new opportunities to diversify their income.

The project has been working to improve and enhance agricultural services to allow sugar cane farmers to increase on-farm incomes by enhancing their supply capacities through assisting with access to seed, seedlings and farm inputs, provision of practical training through farm demonstration plots and communications, and linkages to markets. IKSA is also working closely with the Fiji Government through the Ministry of Agriculture, to strengthen research and extension services and to enhance support services to farmers in Fiji’s sugarcane belt area to cushion the economic and social impacts of the restructuring of the sugar industry.

Launching the film, the Head of Cooperation at the Delegation of the European Union for the Pacific, Christoph Wagner said: ”It is very encouraging to hear directly from some of the farmers supported by the IKSA project that it has been genuinely useful for them. We hope that the services provided through the IKSA project will continue to contribute to the development of horticultural production and enable competition with imports and enter overseas markets.”

“The IKSA project has enabled farmers to develop their horticultural production in communities that traditionally have a high income dependence upon the production and harvesting of sugarcane. The community development and collaboration between farmers and service providers, such as nurseries and the Ministry of Agriculture, is growing the horticultural market and creating new income streams,” SPC Director-General, Dr Colin Tukuitonga said.

SPC Director of Land Resource, Jan Helsen said the IKSA project has focused mainly on diversifying out of sugar cane by developing fruit and vegetable sub-sectors, but also making the cane production systems more robust by introducing pulses and other food crops.

“As a result, more than 1,000 farmers have benefited from the work of the project, with another 2,000 being considered.  IKSA has also touched the livelihoods of those that are most important – farming communities have been given a rational diversified outlook for agriculture as a business and one that could play a more important role in the region.”

Akapusi Rasumu, a farmer from Labasa said “It’s very difficult. We were looking for a way to create a source of income. I have five children that all attend school. It was a difficult life to face. It was such a huge relief when SPC came with their training on how to plant vegetables. Some things I didn’t know I learnt from them and it has increased my knowledge. Nowadays, everyone in the Waiqili area (and) even the Ministry of Agriculture buys seedlings from me.” (ENDS)

Background

IKSA is one of several projects implemented by SPC and financed by the EU in Fiji’s sugarcane belt. These projects are linked to the EU’s Accompanying Measures for Sugar Protocol (AMSP) programme and aim to help strengthen rural sugar-income dependent communities in response to the EU’s Sugar Price Reform and the adverse conditions in the sugar industry. The AMSP programme is designed to improve the livelihoods of sugarcane dependent populations, increase income and reduce poverty.

Media contacts

Debbie Singh, SPC Sugar Projects Communications Specialist │ Email: [email protected]

Lauren Robinson, SPC Media Relations Team Leader │ Email: [email protected]

Jonathan Landrey, Project Manager, IKSA│ Email: [email protected]