May 27, 2024

Ministry of Agriculture and Waterways staff in the Northern Division completed a short training on Integrating One Health Approach into Soil and Plant Health.


In closing the workshop in Labasa on Friday 24th May, the Acting Director for Crop Extension Services Division, Kasanita Ratu said that the training is an important one as it strengthens staff knowledge on in the Northern Division the importance of soil and the interconnectivity it is involved with to provide daily services in meeting livelihoods.


“We must thank the Pacific Community (SPC) for working in collaboration with the Ministry to make this training possible. We must continue to work together to create more awareness on the importance of soils and how it must be managed, protected and conserved for generations to come,” explained Ms Ratu.


“Over the years, agriculture in Fiji has developed from traditional agriculture to a more market driven sector. It is important that we do not over exert the most important component of agriculture which is the soil but to manage and protect it for years to come,” added Ms Ratu.


“The training program integrates the principles of One Health into soil and plant health management. The One Health approach recognizes the interconnectedness of human, animal, and environmental health, emphasizing the need for holistic solutions to complex health challenges.”


“By applying this approach to soil and plant health, we aim to enhance agricultural sustainability, food security, and environmental resilience.”


The One Health concept grew out of the accelerating pace of emerging zoonotic disease outbreaks, and One Health efforts to combat emerging zoonosis have included heightened biosecurity and surveillance, improved control of livestock diseases, and attempts to limit the spread of antibiotic resistance.


Interventions focused on rebuilding soil health which can help address a number of challenging problems relevant to the priorities of both One Health and Planetary Health approaches.


By reducing pesticide use and promoting crop diversity, regenerative farming methods can enhance the biodiversity of agricultural fields and soil micro biomes, something essential for global biodiversity conservation given the global acreage that agriculture consumes.


Better awareness and management of soil health could help reduce the risk of soil-associated pathogens. The global spread of antimicrobial resistance may be slowed by better management of soil micro biomes, although such efforts must address the underlying complexity of soil biota.


At present, extension officers and other local agricultural agents are unable to reliably recommend optimal nutrient inputs.


“Hence the reason for this training is to better equip and train extension officers, agricultural agents, and farmers on “One health, Soil Health and Plant health that will improve the physical, chemical and biological properties of the soil in Vanua Levu."


Topics covered during the training included:

*      Understanding One Health Principles: Soil Health Management: Soil biology, chemistry, and physics fundamentals. Techniques for soil testing and interpretation of results.


*      Soil conservation practices, including cover cropping, conservation tillage, and agroforestry. Composting and organic soil amendments for improving soil fertility and structure.


*      Plant Health Management: Identification and diagnosis of plant diseases, pests, and nutrient deficiencies. Integrated pest management (IPM) strategies, emphasizing biological control methods and cultural practices.


*      Practical Training: Field demonstrations of soil sampling techniques and analysis procedures. Hands-on exercises in pest and disease identification and organized field trips.


Officers who attended the three-day training which ended on Friday 24th surely gained a comprehensive understanding of the One Health approach and its application to soil and plant health management. They were also empowered to work in collaboration and share knowledge among professionals from diverse backgrounds.


The knowledge gained will certainly improve food security, public health, and environmental sustainability in communities where participants work and live.