September 10, 2021
Picture: Head of Agriculture Operations and Services Vinesh Kumar (infront) with the recipients of the B2RA kits at Lawaqa Agriculture Station.
20 farmers from the municipalities of Sigatoka and Nadi yesterday
received their Back to Rural Agriculture (B2RA) toolkit sets from the
Ministry of Agriculture.
While officiating at the virtual handing over from the Ministry of Agriculture’s Headquarters in Raiwaqa yesterday, Minister for Agriculture, Waterways and Environment Hon. Dr. Mahendra Reddy said this third batch of B2RA recipients were part of a new movement into agriculture.
“We are today looking at assisting another 20 farmers or young entrepreneurs who lost jobs in the urban areas and decided to move to the rural areas and over the next two months, we are looking to complete these 375 awards.
“This is the starting point and we are planting seeds for young agricultural entrepreneurs, and I want to congratulate all of you who are recipients of this Back to Rural Agriculture,” he said.
“I want to thank all these young farmers who lost their jobs and have now decided to go to the rural areas and join the agriculture sector, we had announced sometime back that we will assist 375 of these farmers who would want to re-engage with agriculture and provide them with a basic start-up package,” he added.
Hon. Reddy said the Ministry was excited to be getting more young able-bodied, commercial-minded people moving into the agriculture sector, elaborating that through their choices, the sector would grow, thereby opening up new markets within and outside Fiji.
Minister Reddy shared that if there was a silver lining to the current COVID-19 pandemic, it was the uptake of agricultural ventures by affected individuals who had lost formal employment.
“We’re very fortunate that we are able to get this new lot of potential commercial farmers who want to engage in agriculture, should I say thanks to COVID, no one wants to lose their jobs and we are quite sympathetic to those who have lost their jobs and we at the Ministry of Agriculture will do our role in terms of supporting these people who want to come back to agriculture, and they are also giving hope to the people who have learned to put their land into productive use.
Minister Reddy also spoke about the plans in place to re-open borders and spoke about the implications these plans would have on the agriculture sector, primarily on meeting the demand for agricultural produce following the re-opening of borders.
“We also want to seize this opportunity to engage people when the economy picks up through opening up of the border, there will be income generated and this income will be distributed amongst those who are engaged in this process of generating this particular output or produce, so the more people engaged in this production process, the more (income) distribution will happen.
Meanwhile, Mr. Mukesh Krishna of Lomawai, Sigatoka, a former employee of Selva Transfers and Tours Limited who has been unemployed since 1st March 2020 due to COVID-19 said they, the farmers were appreciative of the Ministry’s support via the B2RA initiative.
“On behalf of the farmers, I would like to thank the Ministry of Agriculture, for this great assistance. It has given us, who have been laid off work a second chance to venture into farming,” said Mr. Krishna.
The B2RA start-up package, worth $400 includes one farm knife, a digging fork, one digging spade, a 20L water bucket, one Jerry Can (Water Can), an axe, one 50 meter rope, a tarpaulin set, one set of shade cloth, and $100 worth of planting material and $50 cash which the farmer can spend at his/her discretion.