SOIL nutrient deficiency is a problem with farmers on the island of Taveuni and the AusAID-funded Soil Improvement project aims at improving soil condition.
Speaking at the launch of the project on the island, Acting Australian High Commissioner Glenn Miles said based on the reports compiled at the Mua Research Station after Tropical Hurricane Tomas in March 2010, the soil on the island had been depleted of nutrients.
As a result, with technical assistance from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, the Australian High Commission also supported the Government Research Centre to carry out on-farm trials of Mucuna beans (a bean species) as alternate and cost effective organic fertiliser to assist with farmland rehabilitation.
Mr Miles said while the Mucuna research trials were still continuing, initial results had been positive and that the good work already been done would be used as part of the bigger Taveuni Soil Health Project that was recently launched. "This project represents an investment by AusAID of $490,000 ($A265,000) in supporting the Fiji component of the regional Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research project on Improving Soil Health in Support of Sustainable Development in the Pacific," he said.
"This funding will provide the researchers with equipment to produce and trial organic matter such as coco-peat and bio-char that show promise for restoring soil fertility.
"The true test of this project will be how this research is accepted and adopted by farmers on the island and I have no doubt — with the close involvement of the Teitei Taveuni members and use of soil schools and demonstration plots — that we will see an incremental uptake as other farmers start to see the benefits of using the new and improved farming techniques," he said.
Mr Miles said in the past year, 83 projects in Fiji had benefitted from Australian Direct Aid Program funding of over $700,000 and off those 83 projects, more than half were to help schools.