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Moving to ease poverty

Source: Australian High Commission
Saturday, January 26, 2013

Partners with AusAID and local companies are to make big impacts on poverty through the Market Development Facility

Chocolate and limestone are having an impact on poverty in Fiji thanks to innovative thinking and direct investment by local companies and a new Australian government program, the Market Development Facility (MDF).

Limestone extracted in Fiji has always been used for construction purposes. But for the first time in Fiji, Standard Concrete Industries will produce local lime for use in farming.

Most soils in Fiji are very acidic. Lime can be used to reduce this acidity, which in turn improves the health of plants and increases farmers' harvests. However, because it must be imported, lime is very expensive and not widely available. So while it is highly beneficial, it is rarely used by farmers.

Standard Concrete Industries is the largest concrete manufacturer in Fiji and has a limestone quarry in operation in Tailevu. Standard Concrete had long considered moving into the production of agricultural lime, and was able to do so with the support of the Market Development Facility (MDF), AusAID's job creation and income-generation programme for the poor.

MDF helped Standard Concrete to conduct a feasibility study which identified the level of demand for agricultural lime in Fiji and determined the investment needed to begin production to meet that demand.

"The manufacture of agricultural lime from locally extracted limestone is something that we have been looking at for some time now," says Mosese Volavola, General Manager of Standard Concrete.

"Unfortunately due to the lack of local knowledge and awareness of the benefits of agricultural limestone, there is currently very little demand for this product.

However with the support of MDF in creating awareness and educating our local farmers, we are very confident that sufficient demand will be created to allow us to produce this product locally at an affordable price.

If we can realize the full potential of this brand new product, the positive economic impact on our local agricultural industry will be quite significant," Mr Volavola said.

With more than 65,000 farms across Fiji, the impacts of this MDF-partnership will be widespread for Fiji's farmers and Standard Concrete Industries.

With an established local supply of agricultural lime, farmers will have access to a low-cost solution to their improve soils, their harvests will increase, and their incomes will rise as a result.

The AusAID MDF program is also working with Adi Chocolates, the only chocolate factory in Fiji. Adi Chocolates uses locally-grown cocoa beans to produce artisan chocolate for hotels, tourists, the local market, and for export.

With the support of MDF, Adi Chocolates is upgrading its manufacturing facility to produce more chocolate products and strengthen relationships with cocoa growers.

Adi Chocolates is working directly with Fijian cocoa growers to improve the quality of locally-grown beans and to buy greater volumes of these beans.

Most cocoa growers had abandoned their cocoa trees when prices dropped and buyers disappeared. With Adi Chocolate's expanded production and increased demand for good-quality local beans, growers across Viti Levu and Vanua Levu are restarting their harvests to meet the new growing demand, creating additional incomes for these rural households.

"The success of our business hinges on ensuring healthy future harvests of local cocoa in Fiji," says Tomo Zukoshi, Managing Director of Adi Chocolates.

"Working with MDF has allowed us to develop a comprehensive plan to address the needs of our growers. Together, we will make possible a new chapter for the story of sustainable cocoa in Fiji." MDF is an AusAID multi-country program focused on reducing poverty by stimulating economic growth.

It works through partnerships with the private and public sector to identify and develop new products and services or new ways of doing business, which provide increased income and employment opportunities for poorer populations.

MDF shares the risk of investment to turn local opportunities into realities.

The MDF is currently working with a number of companies in Fiji, including the Crab Company of Fiji, Farmboy, and South Pacific Elixers. By helping these companies unlock innovation, MDF supports sustainable economic growth and poverty-reduction in Fiji.

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