IN an effort to combat marijuana cultivation in the Navosa highlands, a non-government organisation has contributed $1.3million to boost the agricultural sector in the area.
The cash injection has been earmarked for the construction of a produce storage facility, beekeeping, pastoral farming and increasing crop production.
This was revealed by Nadroga Navosa Provincial administrator Josevata Suka.
He said the Adventist Development Relief Agency (ADRA) had stepped forward to assist the people of Navosa with the construction of a cooling storage facility for the export of root crops and vegetables.
"We are working hard to find a substitute crop to marijuana to put a stop to the illegal cultivation of this drug," said Mr Suka.
"The commitment shown by ADRA will encourage farmers to invest in root crops and vegetable farming.
"Talks are also underway for exporters to buy root crops and vegetables from the farms rather than farmers paying huge sums of money transporting farm produce to the market."
Mr Suka said the $1.3m development would also fund honey production, ginger farming and pastoral farming.
"About 50 farmers have been registered and have been assisted by the Agriculture Department to supply root crops and vegetables to export markets."
"The government is certain that developments such as this could put a stop to drug cultivation."
Mr Suka said the development project would take three years to be fully completed.
ADRA country director Savenaca Cavalevu said his organisation decided to take a proactive approach to a continuing problem in the area.
He said the assistance was made after a consultation with the provincial administrators on the difficulties faced by the people of Navosa and how assistance could wean farmers off growing the illicit drug.