Fiji PM Bainimarama Launches New Agricultural Scholarships

Scholarships to put farming on commercial footing

Feb 22, 2013, 08:05 ET from Republic of Fiji

SUVA, Fiji, Feb. 22, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama has launched a new Government scholarship program to train up to 50 farmers a year, provide them with start-up capital and put farming in Fiji on a more commercial footing.

Last week, the Prime Minister handed letters of appointment to more than 40 young people – many of them from poorer families – who are beginning a 12 month certificate training course at the Fiji National University's Koronivia Campus.

Hailing them as the farmers of tomorrow, the Prime Minster challenged them to be the pioneers of a national effort to reduce Fiji's dependence on imported foodstuffs. "We've relied far too much on imports…when we have vast tracts of under-utilised fertile lands capable producing the food we need. Indeed, we are capable of producing not just for our basic needs but for the hotels and for markets overseas," he said.

The Prime Minister said his Government is committed to securing Fiji's supply of food by modernising agriculture, making it more productive and ensuring that the country becomes self sufficient. "We need to constantly explore new agricultural methods, introduce new technology and farming techniques, new seed varieties, new crops and improve animal husbandry," he said.

The Prime Minister outlined the Government's new partnership with the FNU to boost the quality of Fiji's farmers by providing selected young people with specialised knowledge of crop and livestock production. "It's no longer just a question of putting a few seeds or cuttings in the ground or getting a few cattle or goats and fattening them for sale. Farming today is a highly specialised skill and farmers need proper training to do the job they're now expected to do."

The 50 young people who successfully applied for this year's scholarship intake – which was announced in the 2013 budget - will be given a range of Government assistance after they graduate to help establish themselves quickly. Each is being given a loan of FJD $70-thousand to cover the cost of 100 acres of farm land, a tractor and basic farm implements, fertiliser and other material, a house and shed and start up cash of FJD $2,000.

"I ask you all to imagine the difference this initiative can make in a few year's time. A new breed of farmers all formally trained and equipped with the tools to do their jobs. This initiative, we believe, will change the way Fijians view farming and farmers," the Prime Minister said.

Addressing the 50 young male and female recipients, Commodore Bainimarama said he had one message: "You are being given a unique opportunity. Seize this opportunity for yourselves, your families and for all Fijians. You will make them and us proud."

SOURCE Republic of Fiji