March 31, 2022

For villages to succeed in commercial agriculture, a review of current communal farming systems was urgently required to ensure clear demarcation of agri-business ventures from primarily subsistence centric farming.

This was shared by Minister for Agriculture, Waterways and Environment Hon. Dr Mahendra Reddy to villagers of Qelekuro in Tailevu following the commissioning of 3-kilometres of the villages’ farm road recently.

In his address to village elders, farmers and community members of Qelekuro Village, Hon. Reddy said with the Ministry of Agriculture constructing the 3km stretch of the farm road, the onus was now on them to see that their farming endeavours bore fruition.

“You need to establish, in every Mataqali, a commercial arm within the Mataqali that will drive agriculture at a commercial level, otherwise, you will continue to grow as a communal farm where output is shared and is not grown for the market, you will never grow in the communal system, you can’t grow in the communal system because, in the communal system, you’re growing only for the Mataqali, the village consumption and you’re not growing for the market.

“In the communal system you’re just growing enough for your consumption, your village consumption, for your magiti, your cultural obligations, you’re not creating surplus.

He added that in the communal system, there was little space given to individuals to grow beyond and create surplus and eventually become commercial farmers.

“You want them to be part of the Mataqali and just produce enough, the moment you don’t allow agriculture to be done commercially, you do not allow surplus creation for the market, creating zero growth, no growth at all. 

“So I think that you need to convene later and agree to take up commercial agriculture and discuss this amongst yourselves and commit to it wholeheartedly. When you decide to do so, then look for someone who will be in charge of the commercial agriculture component of the Mataqali and leave them, allow them to pursue and spearhead commercial agriculture in the Mataqali.

“Better yet, give them a portion of land to do commercial agriculture and set out clear targets to achieve, set timelines for productivity, set a financial benchmark and an investment plan for the farm on an annual basis, set out your village development plans etc and have the farm be your major revenue generator,” said Minister Reddy. 

“I think it’s time now that we re-look at the commercial agriculture model that is being practised in every village in the country, otherwise, every year, we will come in to pour money into the villages but we’ll continue to see no growth, so we are ready to work with you, our staff are ready to come and help set up the commercial arm of your agriculture ventures and we’re happy to provide the necessary support through attending regular meetings, conduct careful record-keeping, help you with your farm financials, conduct financial literacy training etc, we want to see you develop.

Minister Reddy hoped that the farm road would usher in prosperity for the farmers and the villagers as it had been a long-awaited request from the community. 

“A kilometre of farm road costs us about $40K, for this one 3km that we have completed, it is worth $120,000.00 but this farm road will generate thousands of dollars of income annually for the community, for the Mataqali, for the farmers, for the households and that is exactly what the Government wants.

“We want you to have access to your land, and turn it into an income generation activity, there are large tracts of land that are lying idle which should be utilized for the benefit of the Mataqali, their members, their children and we need to open up this land and sustainably explore its potential so that the land is in the same condition for the future generations.