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Sugarcane farmers in Fiji’s western division were happy to see road rehabilitation works officially commence today on 29kms of cane access roads in the Malolo sector in Nadi.
Once completed, the road works will benefit over 2000 cane farming households in the area, thanks to the significant partnership between the European Union (EU), the Pacific Community (SPC) and the Fiji Government.
The construction works were officially launched by the Prime Minister and Minister for iTaukei Affairs, Sugar Industry and Foreign Affairs, Voreqe Bainimarama in Malolo today.
The FJD$30 million (US$15 million) road rehabilitation works, funded by the EU under their “Accompanying Measures for the Sugar Protocol” (AMSP) programme, are being implemented by the SPC’s Rural Access Roads and Associated Infrastructure (RARAI) project. The project will see over 200kms of cane access roads and drainage systems in the Malolo, Drasa and Koronubu cane sectors rehabilitated between now and the 2018 cane crushing seasons.
Besides the road rehabilitation, the RARAI project supports and promotes income generation for the most vulnerable populations in Fiji's Sugar communities through creating employment possibilities during the construction period. It also will have environmental benefits as it will reduce soil erosion.
Launching the roadworks today, Prime Minister Bainimarama said: “The road to markets in Fiji and beyond begins here, where you take produce and cane that you have just harvested from the fields. These roads will reduce delays and unnecessary labour, and they will help ensure that as our sugar cane industry grows and remains a sustainable source of livelihood for our people, your cane will get to the mills and your crops will reach markets in Fiji and beyond. They hold the promise that the way of life you all know and cherish can continue unabated.”
The PM also thanked the EU for their contribution and commended its work with the Fiji Government to “reshape the sugar cane industry to make it the most competitive and productive it has ever been, even in an era of great change in the global sugar market.”
Speaking at the launch today, EU Ambassador for the Pacific Andrew Jacobs said: "This project tackles a key challenge for farmers, in particular in more remote areas of Fiji by easing the transportation of sugar to the mills. The project has also an important social component, as it will provide employment for vulnerable groups of the population. It is therefore an important element in the EU's ongoing support to the sugar sector in Fiji. There is now a lot of effort to implement the rehabilitation of the access roads in a short period of time, while all stakeholders will still need to be closely associated".
SPC’s Chief Adviser, Patricia Sachs-Cornish said: “SPC is proud to support the advancement of Fiji’s sugar cane industry through the RARAI project. The project will directly benefit a minimum of a thousand farmers in the three sectors through the upgrading of close to 210km of cane access roads. Drain rehabilitation is also an important element of the project and around 30km of field drains will be cleaned and cleared to improve water drainage systems in the targeted cane belt areas. In the coming months, the project will engage selected cane farmers and sugar cane industry stakeholders in the formulation of a maintenance plan for these roads, thus strengthening their ownership of the project".
SOURCE: PACIFIC COMMUNITY/EU PACIFIC/PACNEWS
Pacific Islands News Association
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