IT'S no secret ingredient for healthy produce but it has become a major problem for most farmers, especially those on Taveuni.
Low soil fertility is a challenge a lot of farmers face when trying to reach their intended harvesting goal. For a number of years, declining soil fertility has posed a threat to food and income security for the islanders.
Today, awareness programs have been carried out to address this painful reality and it's done in collaboration with government efforts to bring back richness to our natural soils.
In a statement from the Ministry of Primary Industries, permanent secretary for Agriculture Ropate Ligairi said declining soil fertility on Taveuni had been an issue farmers had raised over a number of years.
He said it had affected their livelihood and income security because of poor yields and low profit margins.
He made the comments at the launch of the Soil Health Project at the Mua Research Station, commending Teitei Taveuni for their efforts to raise awareness about the threat of decreasing soil fertility.
"The depletion of soil fertility on Taveuni was brought by the change in farming systems — from shifting cultivation to the more intensive mono cropping system as more farmers on the island tried to take advantage of Fiji's fast growing export taro industry," he mentioned.
"The increase in the demand for export taro saw a change in the farmers' cultivation practises from the traditional shifting cultivation to the more intensive mono cropping system and the use of herbicide-based land clearing as compared to the traditional slash and burn method.
"It also became necessary for farmers to increase the use of fertiliser to increase yield from their limited land and the continuous cultivation of the same piece of land resulted in nutrient loss through crop harvest and top soil erosion leading to significant yield losses."
He said Fiji accounts for 95 per cent of dalo exports in the region — 70 per cent are grown on Taveuni. Despite Fiji's ranking as the 14th biggest producer of taro in the world, it is the second largest export of fresh taro globally, Mr Ligairi says.
Teitei Taveuni, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, AusAID and the Australian Centre for International Agriculture Research are currently working on addressing the declining fertility on the Garden Island.