projecteverest

A shift towards permaculture in Fiji

Field Development has created a test plot as a prototype of permaculture techniques demonstrated in the Indian Blueprints. There have been stakeholders interested in what we are doing in our test plot and, if these methods prove successful, Farm Ed may have the blueprints licensed out, and sold. Currently, the majority of farms in Fiji are using seasonal, monoculture systems, this is where the permaculture methods may be a solution. Permaculture plots are successful as they have extensive crop diversity, alleviating risks associated with monoculture techniques, as well as providing year round yields.

Traditional farming practices are deeply entrenched in Fijian culture, therefore the change to permaculture techniques will not be an easy one. In order for the permaculture methods to be a Many farmers in Fiji will find this adjustment difficult. The change from common farming practices, to farming using a healthy mix of soils and specific types of seeds or legumes, all without using pesticides will be huge. If a task seems impossible or too hard to achieve one may lose incentive to make the change. Farmers might begin applying some parts of the blueprints, neglecting other key factors due to difficulty finding products needed. Red clay soil, Biochar, Bamboo, Wire, Seeds (for up to 20 different crops) are all things we had to find and source in order to set the farm up. The processes of setting up 6 beds took a month for a team of 6 people with help from staff and well set up infrastructure. Because this takes much effort on farmers’ behalf, it may be ideal for us to make the process as practical as possible by finding wholesalers who can provide the different items needed and make a list of contacts we can recommend to farmers or customers who wish to implement these blueprints.

Constant follow ups with farmers who adopt this method would also be ideal to ensure best possible adaptations of the blueprints. For example, if one to use pesticides because he planted eggplant instead of onion this may be detrimental. Follow ups may help encourage farmers to pursue permaculture to a T.

I have enjoyed every moment on project, and can’t wait to see where the next team takes it. Venture on. 

Roya Ghodsi Aug 1, 2017

Hi Daniella!
I was a Trekker on the Malawi Agriculture Assessment last month, and was involved in setting up the foundations for the implementation of a similar test plot in Malawi at the end of this year. We predicted a complication similar to that which you've mentioned for Fiji - that given there are traditional farming practices entrenched in Malawian culture, it will be a hard task to ensure that the farmers stick to the blueprint we provide without reverting back to more familiar and simpler techniques, such as the use of chemical pesticides or fertilizers. We therefore also recognise the value of conducting constant follow-ups to oversee the correct implementation and maintenance of the farm over the full 12-month period.
I was wondering - does the Fiji project have PE staff permanently in-country for these purposes? Do you think that the Malawi project will require the same? We have prepared for the initial implementation process over the December - Feburary period, but have not planned beyond that. Is having year-round in-country staff something we need to think about - otherwise, would you suggest any alternatives?
Thank you!
Roya - Ag Assessment, Malawi.

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Lucy Noble Aug 7, 2017

Hey there Roya!
Fortunately in Fiji, as we established this initial demonstration plot at Ranadi Plantations (an organic ginger exporter in Fiji, interested in our work and future direction in the Ag sphere), the staff at Ranadi were happy to oversee our week until our return in December. This will include weed control, bed maintenance, possible irrigation, and most importantly, recording the time, yield and success of harvests. This will determine the direction of summer field development teams, as they can build upon our crop successes and (possible) failures.
So back to your question, PE does not have any permanent staff in Fiji between the July and summer projects, however, we have been able to manage this through the recruitment of staff at the plantations interested in our work. Right now, the reality of having permanent PE staff in-country is unrealistic, yet a more scalable and exciting solution would be to onboard keen and interested stakeholders/locals interested in the work being tested in Field Development. Solving the problem of needing permanent PE staff in country, but also educating and giving power to the people who need Field Development most!

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