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Move to grow local organic movement

Filipe Naigulevu
Monday, July 17, 2017

MORE farm land on the remote island of Matuku in the Lau Group are earmarked to be certified organic with the increasing interest from farmers.

These certified farmers will then come under the Matuku Organic Farmers' Co-Operative, which was formed to act as the legal entity for the groups' activities and organic certification.

This is being made possible through an extensive organic farming project — Matuku Island Organic Farming Project (MIOFP) — which is spearheaded by Loving Islands, a small Fijian social enterprise.

Loving Islands founder/director Litia Kirwin said 76 organic producers were registered under the co-operative along with more than 3,900 acres of land for organic food production on Matuku.

"We'll be heading back in September or October to Matuku to do the remaining registrations and we'll be expecting just over a 100 farmers," she told this newspaper in an interview yesterday.

"So we are just starting with coconuts and just moving on further certification of farms."

Through the organic project, Loving Islands Fiji with the support of US Embassy's Regional Environment Office in Suva and the Pacific Organic and Ethical Trade Community (POETCom) of the Pacific Community (SPC) conducted several round of auditing on Matuku for organic certification last year.

The certification was done through Participatory Guarantee System (PGS), an organic certifying method done through auditing and peer reviews, which was done with positive results and a visible inclusion of biodiversity on Matuku.

Ms Kirwin said the organic movement on Matuku was growing with more farmers seeing the end result of organics.

She said they were also getting more access to markets through platforms such as the monthly ROC Market which was held in Suva yesterday, which she hopes to become a monthly hub for organics.

"Today (yesterday) Ranadi Plantations has joined us as well, next month we'll hopefully have more organic producers as well from the Western side, just making this the monthly hub for organic products in Fiji," Ms Kirwin said.

Organic products and fresh produce such as ginger, turmeric, lime and some seedlings, pawpaw, fresh bu (coconut) and tapioca flour, some of which are from Matuku were on display at the ROC Market, which drew much interest from the many people that flocked to their stall.

"We have the ROC Market, and later we will be heading to Sydney in September for the Australian fine food show as part of the Ministry of Agriculture's delegation to that," Ms Kirwin said.

"An organic producer from Matuku will also be represented to this event and we are hoping for entry to exports after that."

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