On 7 April, 2017, the European Union (EU)-funded, SPC-managed Reforest and Fairtrade Projects, in collaboration with the Fiji Sugar Corporation (FSC), organised a tree distribution exercise for cane farmers at the FSC office in Nadi.
The trees were distributed to Leader Farmers of the Legalega, Meigunyah, Malolo, Nawaicoba and Yako cane sectors. Each Leader Farmer received boxes containing 20 free seedlings each; one box each for his Link Farmers and for himself. Each box contained eight Mahogany trees (Swietenia macrophylla), six Sandalwood trees (Santalum yasi), three Eucalyptus trees (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) and three Vesi (Intsia bijuga) trees.
Seventeen Leader Farmers – and through them 153 Link Farmers – were provided with boxes of Mahogany, Sandalwood, Eucalypt and Vesi saplings which totalled 3,300 being distributed that day.
On 14 September, 2017 FSC, Reforest and Fairtrade staff visited farmers in the Malolo sector to obtain an appreciation of the results of the tree distribution activity.
Cane farmer Prakash Chand had planted three Yasi (sandalwood) trees on the edge of his compound
“I gave them some fertiliser to give them a good start and watered them. Look how tall they have grown”, he said.
Mr Chand said that he had planted the other saplings around his seasonal vegetable field but they had died because they could not be watered there. He said he would be interested in fruit trees, especially limes as he said that they could provide him with a regular source of income through sales at the local market.Prakash Chand
Prakash Chand proudly showing one of his exceptionally tall Yasi (sandalwood) saplings
Reforest partner staff showing well developed saplings at Prakash Chand’s farm
Gur Nandan planted all 20 trees around his homestead
Sandalwood sapling on the edge of Gur Nandan’s compound
View of Gur Nandan’s compound and additional vacant land where he is keen to plant more trees
He told us that he had watered them daily but now that they were established, he watered them once a week. The results are good with 19 out of 20 saplings thriving and just one of his Vesi saplings dying.
When asked how the trees would benefit him he replied:
“when they grow bigger, they will provide shade and with the mango trees already growing here, my homestead will be an even more pleasant place to be.”
Mr Nandan has more vacant land near his home where he would like to plant more trees.Gur Nandan
Navin Narayan is a Leader Farmer
Navin Narayan is a Leader Farmer. Besides producing cane (he produced 100 tonnes last year and expects more this year); he has 20 goats and intercrops his cane with vegetables which he sells for extra income.
He participated in the Fairtrade training on “Best Cane Management Practices” where he learned the importance of timely operations and early maturing varieties. This year, he will be receiving a government cane grant to boost his production. He wants to establish a firebreak on his farm.
“In this area there are so many fires that get out of hand; we have already seen several this season”, he said.Navin Narayan
Navin Narayan shows one of his saplings growing on the hill behind his house
Mehtab Khan owns a 32-acre farm and produces 270 tonnes of cane
Mr Khan also produces cassava and buys, pounds and sells Yaqona (Kava) for extra income. He planted the eight Mahogany saplings given to him around his homestead, and the others in a forested patch on a hill on the other side of his farm.
He says that it was easy to water the saplings around his house but he carried water daily from his spring around 400 meters away for those that he planted in the forest. He still waters them every few days and all 20 of his trees are doing well.
“You can see that I am very happy with the saplings by how well I have cared for them. I would like to receive more Mahogany and Sandalwood to plant,” he said.Mehtab Khan
Shorab Khan planted all of his seedlings on a hill some distance away from his homestead
“It was a very suitable area with a shallow hollow that is often moist,” he said.
Unfortunately, a wildfire swept through his farm destroying the seedlings. He says that he would like to receive another batch of saplings, especially Sandalwood, saying that he would plant them around his house where they would be safer.Shorab Khan
Mohammed Aniz is a Leader Farmer with a similar story to tell
He had planted all 20 trees among a few Pine trees on a hill a short distance from his homestead. He had regularly carried water up the hill and 17 saplings were pulling through the dry season.
But on Monday 4 September a wildfire, originating at a distance of 8km swept down his hill and burnt all the saplings. He said that this had saddened him greatly as he had put a lot of effort into growing them.
“We farmers should support your work; you are doing a lot of good work and we really appreciate it,” Mr Aniz said.
He also said he would like to receive a new mix of saplings to plant in the same place but requested that they be distributed in the rainy season.
Mr Aniz works the farm with his brother Aiyaz and they have 22 years left on their lease. Last year, they harvested 191 tonnes of cane and this year the figure stands at 300 tonnes. He also has a field of groundnuts and grows vegetables in the season.Mohammed Aniz
Navin Chand, another Leader Farmer, is also a truck driver and works on Denarau island
Ramesh Kumar grows cane and raises 16 goats and eight cows
This season he has already harvested 200 tonnes of cane, with more to come. Mr Kumar had planted a few of the saplings he received from his Leader Farmer near his house, in amongst “Bele” (slippery cabbage or Hibiscus manihot) plants where they could be watered regularly. A total of 17 trees are growing.
“It’s easy. Just dig a hole, put the sapling in and watch it grow,” he says.
When the creek was still running, Mr Kumar had used it to water his trees, but now that the creek had dried up, he has had to improvise and has requested that the next distribution of trees be done during the rainy season. Mr Kumar has another two acres of bushland where he would like to plant more trees. “It will be my children and grandchildren who will harvest the timber as I am already an old man,” he said.Ramesh Kumar
Bhan Mati planted all 20 saplings around his homestead but only five have survived
This is because Mr Mati had been unable to water them as he and his wife depend on a seasonal spring, which only flows during eight months of the year.
Now that it has dried up, they are dependent on water being brought in by a government truck. He is finding it difficult to get his name on the water distribution list and the family have hardly enough water to do their washing.
“It is a very good activity but I can only really profit from it if the saplings are distributed at the start of the rainy season,” he told us.Bhan Mati