Experts from India are being sought to help revive the dying coconut industry. And the industry can create many jobs for both the formal and informal sectors in Fiji if farming is structured and managed well.
Minister for Social Welfare, Women and Poverty Alleviation Jiko Luveni discovered this when she visited Kerala last week with Fiji's High Commissioner in India Yogesh Karan. She explored opportunities associated with the industry that could be replicated in Fiji.
Kerala is India's largest coconut industry state where a large portion of the population depends on this sector for sustenance and entrepreneurial activities.
Dr Luveni was impressed with the extensive research and the extension work by the Kerala Agricultural University to devise the best methods to plant coconuts.
Dr Luveni said farmers had to be taught basic scientific methods for better yields and commercial viability.
Mr Karan said government was working on a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with India where expertise could be sourced from India. He said Fiji's coconut industry needed to have an integrated farming method for greater returns of the space utilised and structured farming for better yield as done in India.
She also visited villages in the interior of Kerala to observe cottage industries, particularly where women were involved in the coconut industry and its by-products.
Dr Luveni said it was a learning experience to see that every part of the coconut from the roots to the tip of the leaves was used for income generation in India.
"I am very impressed to see how women make good quality rope using coconut fibre using low-cost automated machines, for exports. We in Fiji have all the raw materials and I want to introduce these ideas in villages," Dr Luveni said.
"I am impressed how the women use the same space in between the coconut palms to plant banana, pepper, beans, and other vegetables. On top of that, they have small poultry and cattle farms, all interdependent.
"Our women in Fiji need to be empowered so that they can adapt these scientific farming techniques to boost the cottage industry and create employment.
"There are also community projects to bottle coconut juice and milk to be sold that are simple to do and I am very keen to introduce these ideas to our women in Fiji."