Thursday, 3 October 2013

A touching insight into life in Fiji

Two video clips about the Pacific Agribusiness Research for Development Initiative (PARDI) and the people it benefits have just been produced. This blog is from Communication Officer Julie Lloyd on her travels to Fiji for the filming...

How does a person feel when, for the first time, they step into a part of the South Pacific and experience firsthand, a unique environment that is rarely exposed? As Communication Officer for the Pacific Agribusiness Research for Development Initiative (PARDI) who recently visited some of the more remote and traditional farming areas of Fiji, I can say it is an eye-opening yet rewarding experience. From the minute I arrived in Nadi on a hot Sunday afternoon in August, until I departed six days later, my head and heart were bursting at the seams absorbing a country and a culture of people who do it tough but at the same time reflect a sense of pride and generosity.

Fijian boy with breadfruit
Fijian boy with breadfruit at Sigatoka market (photo: J. Lloyd)

The reason for my trip was to travel with some of PARDI’s cropping researchers to take a range of video footage for YouTube clips depicting the impact of agricultural research in the region. The conditions for filming were pretty rugged. Heat combined with dusty, isolated locations and blaring sun meant there was little time to set up filming shoots. Given the broad scope of activities that our scientists cover and the large number of people with whom they connect, we spent the week racing from one location to the next along bumpy roads in an effort to cover the Coral Coast and Sigatoka Valley.

Several days into my trip, after overcoming some of my fears (ie drinking *Kava, going to the loo in a tin shack surrounded by bullocks), I began to see the incredible beauty of the country and the people around me.  Men, women and children alike pull together to perform daily tasks without the support of fundamental infrastructure or technology. The consistent patience displayed by the country’s farmers to carry out daily activities under these conditions had me transfixed. Markets abound with colourful produce sold by women who have slept on concrete floors overnight in readiness for the morning shoppers. Children accompany their parents on long journeys without the luxury of an iPod or a knapsack full of treats, their eyes wide open taking in the simple pleasures in life.

Fijian farmers at meeting
 PARDI workshop where farmers learn about reducing postharvest waste
(Julie is at front on right)
My recollection of Fiji is by no means intended to make light of the poverty or the day-to-day life of locals; quite the opposite, it is more to reflect on how incredibly well these people operate in a climate full of challenges. Village communities are alive and well in Fiji and with the right sort of support, such as that provided through ACIAR’s PARDI project, there is a bright future for Fiji’s farmers and in turn local communities and the country’s economy.


Thank-you Fiji.

The two new video clips are now available on YouTube. Keep your eyes out for more to come!

By Julie Lloyd, PARDI Communications

More information

PARDI's web page in SPC Land Resources Division's website

The ACIAR project Pacific Agribusiness Research for Development Initiative (PARDI) is led by the University of Queensland.
Other partners include:
University of Adelaide, School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, Australia
University of the Sunshine Coast, Faculty of Science, Health and Education, Australia
James Cook University, School of Marine and Tropical Biology, Australia
Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Land Resources Division, Fiji
University of the South Pacific, Faculty of Business and Economics, Fiji
Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation, Centre for Tropical Agriculture, Australia

*Kava is a crop of the Western Pacific. Plant roots are ground or crushed and mixed with water to create a drink that has a sedative effect. Kava is a popular drink at local ceremonies.

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