An initial 43,000 fruit and vegetable seedlings have been made immediately available by the Pacific Community (SPC) and the European Union (EU) to assist with the Fijian Government’s nation-wide disaster relief and recovery effort, following the devastation caused by tropical cyclone Winston.
The seedlings, including cabbage, tomatoes, eggplant, capsicum and papaya, are being provided by SPC-EU joint initiative, ‘Improvement of Key Services to Agriculture (IKSA)’ project.
The Lautoka based initiative was established in 2013 to help alleviate poverty for the most vulnerable groups, mainly famers in the sugarcane region of Fiji, by supplementing their incomes through the production and sale of horticultural crops.
‘The IKSA project offers a practical rapid response to the food security needs of many citizens affected by tropical cyclone Winston”, says EU Ambassador to Fiji and the Pacific, Andrew Jacobs. ”As fresh food become scarce in the coming days, it is important that farming communities continue to access a range of nutritious, healthy food and this project will attempt to address this.”
Pacific Community Director-General, Dr Colin Tukuitonga says, “SPC stands ready to utilise the scientific and technical expertise at our disposal to lend a helping hand and reinforce the Fiji Government’s capacity in its hour of need.”
“As the full impact of cyclone Winston continues to unfold, the provision of seedlings is one immediate way we can support the Ministry of Agriculture to address food security during this time. We expect to make available a further 205,000 seedlings, which will include 1,000 tissue cultured plantlets of sweet potato from our Centre for Pacific Crops and Trees (CePaCT), in the next six to seven weeks,” Dr Tukuitonga added.
The category five cyclone – described as the Southern Hemisphere’s most destructive on record – has so far claimed over 40 lives, destroyed whole communities, and crippled the agriculture sector, which supports the livelihoods of thousands of people and is a major source of revenue for the Pacific Island nation.
Scientific and technical personnel based across a number of SPC’s programmes including disaster reduction, land resources and water and sanitation are currently on hand to provide specialised assistance to the Fiji government through its National Disaster Management Office.