Iva Vakacegu, leader of Korociri Multi-racial Women?s Group in Nadi. Credit: Tomoko Kashiwazaki/UNDP.
The long beans Iva Vakacegu planted a month ago are spiraling up along many tall wooden sticks and she is getting ready for another harvest. At other corners of the farm, there are other women, men boys and girls weeding around cabbages, tomatoes, cucumbers and watermelons, all growing on 1.5 acres of land. This new plot was prepared on higher ground to avoid being affected by further flooding in the area.
Korociri settlement in Nadi with 1,034 people, was among many communities in Fiji?s Western Division that was devastated by the twin floods in early 2012 and again by tropical Cyclone Evan that hit the country in December 2012. Farms were completely submerged and vegetables and staple crops like taro andcassava?plants were left to rot under water as the water levels continued to rise for a few days.
?We picked some of the crops, which was just enough to feed us for a week. When the water went down, we had to start clearing the rotten crops and plant again?this happens every time after a flood,? Iva recalls.
Iva leads the Korociri Multi-racial Women?s Group which is made up of 35 women and 15 men, and is among 38 community groups of women, youth and cooperatives, who started vegetable farming with support from the UNDP Fiji Multi-Country Office.
Implemented by the Ministry of Primary Industries and the Ministry of Finance and Strategic Planning, National Development & Statistics, the project, Enhancing Livelihood Recovery through improving Food Security in the aftermath of Natural Disasters, aims to assist communities sustain their livelihoods and build their resilience in case of natural disasters through engaging in farming ventures and increasing food security. This project is also supported by UNDP?s Bureau of Conflict Prevention and Recovery, and Pacific Risk Resilience Programme.
This project supports the Government of Fiji?s Humanitarian Action Plan prepared after Cyclone Evan and supports the rehabilitation plan outlined in the Post Disaster Needs Assessment. It identified the need to strengthen the area of food security and support the re-establishment of livelihoods for communities that continue to suffer extensive damages after a natural disaster.
Since 2013, community members have undertaken community resource mapping and farm planning, as well as learnt farming skills and basic financial management skills. Seeds and seedlings, materials for nursery and other agricultural equipment were also distributed by the Ministry of Agriculture. The Ministry also conducted awareness on the impacts of climate change and importance of disaster risk reduction and risk management.
This determined community group from Korociri settlement is taking the classroom to the farm. According to Iva, ?we have already harvested and sold vegetables and crops within our community. We had a profit of FJ$88 and saved it in our new group savings account.?
They have also invested in a grass cutter that will be leased out to other community members to raise further income. To assist the community in future natural disasters, with some of the profits raised, they plan to donate clothes and school stationaries to children when they are forced to leave their homes for the flood evacuation centre currently being built in Korociri. Furthermore, in order to be better prepared for the next disaster or cyclone, the group has secured another acre of land, situated in a location above the current plot to plant climate resilient root crops including kumara, yam,?cassava?and taro.
?This will ensure our community will be self-sufficient and self-sustainable even after any disaster?, said Iva. The group will not only be ?self? sufficient but also extending their successes to other community members.
- 38 community groups have been working on the land of total around 90 acres cultivating vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, longbeans, etc. and root crops including taro, cassava, yam and kumala.
- Their farms are expected further to benefit around 15,000 people at community level. More than 20 groups have so far successfully harvested.
- The project supported 17 women?s group at community level among youth (18) and cooperatives (three). Women consists 61 percent of total number of direct beneficiaries of the project.