A study on the role of women in Fiji’s agricultural sector has highlighted gender gaps that are having a negative impact on the industry. Improving women’s access to training, market information, transport and financial literacy could not only help empower women farmers, it could also increase the productivity and profitability of the entire sector.

A panel discussion about the outcomes of the study, which was coordinated by the Pacific Community (SPC) and supported by European Union (EU), was held today at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva. The draft report was commissioned by the EU funded Improving Key Services to Agriculture (IKSA) project, which is managed by SPC. The report discusses challenges faced by households according to gender and farming systems in Fiji’s sugarcane and horticulture sectors.

Speakers on the panel included Ms Sandra Bernklau from the UN Women “Markets for Change” project, Ms Sashi Kiran, Executive Director of the Foundation for Rural Integrated Enterprise and Development (FRIEND) and Ms Patricia Clare, the Consultant who undertook the study.

The Acting Head of Cooperation at the Delegation of the European Union for the Pacific, Emmanuelle Guiheneuf said: ”The EU is pleased and proud to support the work of the IKSA project which has been working closely with the Fiji Ministry of Agriculture to support farmers in the sugar cane belt areas to increase and improve the production of horticultural crops through the provision of enhanced research and extension services, nursery and farmer development, and improved market access and trade. This study will provide information that will allow the design of an evidence-based gender mainstreaming approach within agriculture strategies and projects, notably in view of the 11th European Development Fund budget support operation.”

The IKSA project has undertaken a survey of 30 farms, which are either in sugarcane production, sugarcane and horticulture production, or horticulture production.  The study has collated information from interviews with households to understand the demands on the members of the household by gender and to identify how challenges arise when transitioning from one farming system to another and how support could be better designed to help households overcome challenges, and identify tangible and intangible benefits that accrue from different farming systems.

Highlighting the importance of the study, SPC Director General, Dr Colin Tukuitonga said: “The essential role that woman play in Fiji’s agricultural sector continues to be under-reported and far too often, unrecognized. This study clearly shows that investing in the untapped potential of these farmers will be invaluable for Fiji to reach its national agricultural sustainability goals.”

The IKSA project has been working to improve and enhance agricultural services to allow sugarcane farmers to increase on-farm incomes by enhancing their supply capacities through assisting with access to seed, seedlings and farm inputs, provision of practical training through farm demonstration plots and communications, and linkages to markets.

IKSA has been working closely with the Fiji Government through the Ministry of Agriculture to strengthen research and extension services and to enhance support services to farmers in Fiji’s sugarcane belt to cushion the economic and social impacts of the restructuring of the sugar industry.

Media contacts:
Debbie Singh, SPC Sugar Projects Communications Specialist │ Email: debbies@spc.int