Julia Rokoqica is a farmer from Nacereyega village in Fiji’s northern province of Macuata. As a single mother, she supports her children and grandchildren with the money that she makes from farming.
In February 2016, Tropical Cyclone Winston — the strongest storm recorded in the Southern Hemisphere — devastated Fiji, flattening entire villages and leaving thousands of people homeless.
“Before the cyclone, I lost hope in farming. After the cyclone, I lost hope in my future,” she said.
To help the community recover, the U.S. Agency for International Development provided grant money to an organization called Foundation for Rural Integrated Enterprises and Development to train farmers like Julia in organic agriculture.
Julia and her grown children learned how to prepare organic fertilizer from compost and manure. They use ash to repel insects. They also learned how to plant different types of crops in the same field to make the most of her land. “We went from farming just half an acre to all 3 acres (1.2 hectares) of our land,” she said.
The USAID-backed project also installed community solar-drying stations and processing equipment for farmers to prepare cassava flour and dried fruit. Julia now sells her goods every two weeks, allowing her to earn three times more money per month. “Before, I didn’t earn enough to open a bank account,” said Julia, who is also learning bookkeeping and financial management from the project.
The Foundation for Rural Integrated Enterprises and Development, in partnership with USAID, also recently opened Fiji’s first-ever certified-organic, farm-to-table restaurant, which buys the farmers’ produce and trains and employs people from the community.
Today, Julia’s land bursts with cabbage, tomato, watermelon and other crops. She only visits the market on Saturdays. “I have a savings account to build my house stronger and deal with emergencies,” Julia said.
A longer version of this article appears on USAID/Exposure.