November 27, 2016
The stringent requirements required by the Ministry of Agriculture in order for agricultural and subsistence farmers to qualify for vegetable seeds donated by the Government of India is yet another painful reminder of this Government’s bureaucratic and dictatorial policy.
It is adding insult to injury of victims of Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston who are struggling to feed their families and in places like Koro Island are forced to rely on wild food suitable for animal consumption, as recently highlighted by the Fiji Times newspaper.
Last month the Government of India sent to Fiji five tonnes of vegetable seeds to help in cyclone rehabilitation efforts after the devastating effects of Cyclone Winston.
Cyclone-affected farmers suffered heavy losses. You would think that with five tonnes of seeds, it would not be a difficult thing for the Government to hand these out.
Instead, farmers – even subsistence farmers, who need only a few grams of seeds to re-establish their gardens – are being made to fill out a two-page form prepared by the Ministry of Agriculture. The form requires them to give the Ministry:
– their birth certificate, FNPF card or TIN number
– a passport-sized photo
– a copy of their land or lease title
– for vakavanua lessees, a consent letter from their turaga ni mataqali.
They must then write down the background of their faming experience and
sign the form.
But filling out the form does not mean the farmers get the seeds. The next step is for civil servants in the Ministry of Agriculture to process the form. They must “verify” the farmer’s
– land ownership
– consent for use of land for farming
– total acreage to be developed
– distance of farm from main road
– type of vegetation cover
– distance to market
– crops to be established
– seeds and planting materials availability
– farm labour availability.
Only then will they consider if the farmer can get the seeds. This is bureaucracy gone mad. It is worse than simply receiving the $1000 handout to supposedly start the establishment of one’s own small business.
How does the Ministry think it can distribute five tonnes of seeds with this amount of paperwork? By the time the civil servants are finished, it will take a farmer weeks or months to get his seeds. A subsistence farmer needs these seeds now, not after the Agriculture Department has worked out his “distance to market!”
Why does a farmer have to pay for a passport-sized photograph and to photocopy his land titles to get a few free seeds? It will be cheaper for him just to buy some seeds at his local store.
The Government is so out of touch with the people that it makes them run around like this, just to get a few seeds to re-establish their crops, feed their families and maybe earn some cash by selling the surplus.
Does the Indian Government know that this is going on?
Perhaps the Prime Minister should stop his climate change globetrotting for a few weeks and stay in Fiji long enough to help cyclone victims be self-reliant, feed their families and improve their food security.
Authorised by: –
Professor Biman Prasad