CAPTION: Tiko Eastgate shows the farmers some tips on fencing.
It?s one thing to ?think outside the box? but it?s a whole new challenge to take those thoughts and put them into practice.
That is exactly what the Fiji Development Bank?s Sigatoka branch is doing.
On January 10 and 11 this year, staff of the bank took some 22 Nadroga beef farmers on a fieldtrip to the Central Division visiting a model beef farm and getting to better understand the processes in the beef industry.
?This was an opportunity for these farmers to learn from some of the best in the beef industry and to see firsthand the intricacies involved with rearing of beef cattles right up to the processes at the abattoir where they are slaughtered,? said FDB Sigatoka branch officer, Alifereti Tora.
Some of the farmers were accompanied by their wives who are also involved in beef farming. The farmers were taken on a tour of Mr. Tiko Eastgate?s farm near Gusuisavu Village in the hinterlands of Naitasiri,known as Vunikoka farm. Mr. Eastgate shared some of his experiences and tricks of the trade which were not only simple but also cost effective.
?This trip has been a real success as we were able to give these farmers first hand examples of successful individuals in the beef industry. They are able to take back with them invaluable lessons.?
The initiative by the bank has been ongoing since early 2012 where thorough consultations were done with the farmers to ascertain the best commodity to generate income and beef was singled out. Since then, FDB has worked very closely with the farmers and eventually bringing in the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) and the i-Taukei Land Trust Board (TLTB).
?The assistance from TLTB?officer Ema Natadra and MOA Officer Tevita Nabura has been a great boost in terms ofthe issuance of new leases, Technical advice on government assistance available and to understand the best breed of cattle that is in great demand.?
?We have been consulting for a while now preparing the farmers and ensuring they were being proactive in terms of preparation of their farms. We have been using the ?solesolevaki? approach wherebyeach Wednesday the wholegroup workson one?s farm and on the following Wednesday the group works on another member?s farm and so forth. This has really motivated them.?
During the trip farmers also met with the Permanent Secretaries for Agriculture Ropate Ligairi and Permanent Secretary for Regional Development Filipe Alifereti.The farmers were assured assistance for their beef farm projects and even some income generating projects for their wives.
Likewise, approval was also given by the Permanent Secretary of Agriculture for the entire stakeholders in Beef Farming in the Nadroga and Navosa region to draw up a framework which will guide beef farmers and all stakeholders to ensure that government?s objectives on food security, import substitution and the ability to meet local demand are achieved.
FDB chief executive officer Mr. Deve Toganivalu said this was a very promising move by the farmers and likewise by FDB to encourage beef farming in the western division.
?This is a very timely move to boost the beef and dairy industry in the western division with plans by Southern Cross Foods Ltd (SCF) and government to extend this industry to the western division. This will set the platform for farmers to be able to meet the demands of SCF when it begins its operations in the Western Division and likewise meet the demands for meat,? said Mr. Toganivalu.
?We are also ready to assist these farmers with respect to finance and we are here with them all the way to ensure that their dreams become a reality.?
Beef farming in the western division is being rekindled and with all the stakeholders playing their roles the light at the end of the tunnel might just be a little brighter.