INDISCRIMINATE sugarcane planting fuelled by huge demand for Fiji sugar over three decades ago has resulted in widespread unsustainable cane farming today.
Secretariat of the Pacific Community's (SPC) Land Resources Division's acting director Inoke Ratukalou shared this information with senior journalists from the Pacific region at a workshop in Nadi last week.
"The unsustainable land use practice has led to a huge amount of soil loss into water systems in the Western Division and contributed significantly to increased flooding," he said.
"In 1976 when the Fiji Sugar Corporation took over the industry, there was a huge demand for Fiji sugar.
"And due to the increase in markets, the quota for raw sugarcane simultaneously increased.
"Because almost all arable cane land was fully utilised, farmers took to growing cane on marginal land.
"To make harvesting easier, farmers abandoned contour farming and took to planting up and down slopes without introducing conservation methods.
"This led to increase in runoffs during periods of heavy rainfall and resulted in the increasing siltation and sedimentation of our waterways to the extent that we are facing the consequences today," Mr Ratukalou said.
While the onus of raising awareness among cane farmers about best farming practice lay with the Ministry of Primary Industries, Mr Ratukalou said the LRD was assisting cane growers in the country by conducting land assessments.
"We are going to do a thorough assessment of land management where we will conduct tests to determine which type of soil is best suited to a particular crop.
Mr Ratukalou also revealed that the LRD will be working with assistance from relevant stakeholders to discover best farming methods.
"In conjunction with aid from New Zealand counterparts, the LRD will also advise farmers on the most effective method of cultivation on the different types of land available for planting," said Mr Ratukalou.