November 9, 2020

Never has any Government directly engaged with ordinary Fijians like that of Prime Minister Hon. Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama’s Fiji First Government.

Minister for Agriculture, Waterways and Environment, the Hon. Dr Mahendra Reddy shared this sentiment with farmers whom he had informal discussions with in the West last week.

The Hon. Dr Reddy said the Hon. Prime Minister was continuously traveling around the country to meet Fijians and understand their situations.

“This is the first time you will see this Government engaging with the people. Never before has a government had this level of engagement with the people.

“Whenever the Hon. PM or Hon. Ministers attend a commissioning, or opening, or a groundbreaking ceremony following that, they will sit down and they have a talanoa session. That format never existed before.

He said at those talanoa sessions, the Hon. PM or the Hon. Minister would sit down, talk, share ideas and understand ordinary Fijians problems and their situation.

That’s the model that we have in this government, said the Hon. Dr Reddy.

“I want to assure you that we are mindful of the situation you’re facing and that’s why we are continuously looking at ways to assist you all.”

“Never before this used to happen where Ministers would come and sit and talk to farmers face to face.

“It gives you an opportunity to discuss issues you face openly with us,” he said.

Dr Reddy said it was for this same principle, that the Ministry of Agriculture had started a talanoa session with farmers this month and expected to end in January 2021.

“We published a few weeks ago, a list of meetings we will conduct in different areas, both in the settlements as well as villages, leading up until January, with our Agriculture Officers.

“This is what we are doing in order to have more contact with farmers and if there are issues that are raised in these forums then will we send our officers to your farms,” he said.

The Minister said farmers had complained that Agriculture Officers were not regularly visiting them at their farms, hence the reason for organizing the ‘Noqu Agriculture’ discussions, which had already started last week all over the country.

“Otherwise, it is literally impossible to visit every farmer.

“Also we do not want to visit your farm and disturb you. There may not be any need to visit your farm.

“In that meeting, we can decide whether we need to send a plant pathologist or entomologist for the insects or if it is an animal matter, whether we can send an animal health officer or a veterinarian issue then we can send the Vet.”

The Hon. Dr Reddy visited the West last week with farmers of Navilawa Village, Sabeto followed by the Drasa Johnson Farmer’s Cluster, in Lautoka; Nanoko Village, Navatusila; Vatia Farmers Cluster in Tavua; and Nandhari Farmers Cluster in Ba.