From milk to mushrooms, how the Naitasiri Women in Dairy are expanding their horizons

Since receiving a grant from the Fiji Women’s Fund, the Naitasiri Women in Dairy Group (NWDG) have hit the ground running and continue to inspire those around them.  In just under two years, the group’s membership has grown in size and the women have been able to successfully implement and achieve many of the projects that they set their minds to.

The Fund’s initial support to NWDG was to help strengthen and properly establish the operations of the group.  The NWDG had aimed to work collectively to increase milk production, increase household income, and get a seat at the table – voice for women farmers in a male-dominated industry.  All of these goals were met within the first year under the first call of the Fund’s grant.

Over the past two months (September – October), the women have diversified into new forms of income-generating activities.  Through an additional capacity development grant from the Fund, the women were able to learn how to cultivate oyster mushrooms, an upcoming commodity new to the Fijian agriculture sector.

The women first undertook a one-day introductory training with Fanny Fiteli, co-founder and owner of Mama Mushrooms.  This training was facilitated by the Fund and yGAP on 29 August at the home garden of the President of the NWDG. During this training, Fanny helped the women plant 100 pilot mushroom subtracts. A week and a half later, the pilot project produced an initial harvest of 12 kg and the second harvest of 3.5 kg.  The mushrooms were sold at $15 a kg and generated much interest from eager buyers in Suva.

Following this training, the Fund supported 12 women from NWDG to undergo further mushroom training at the Juncao Technology Demonstration Center in Legalega, Nadi from 14 – 15 October. The training is a partnership between the Ministry of Agriculture and the Chinese Government to encourage the cultivation of mushroom in Fiji through a three-year hand-holding programme.

The women learned about land preparation, cultivation, plant nutrition, sterilisation, and harvesting techniques. The women were also treated to a cooking session by the Chinese trainer as oyster mushrooms are still new to Fiji and most people do not know how to use it in their cooking.

A week after the training, the NWDG eagerly set up their mushroom greenhouse and await the subtracts from the Ministry to start a full-scale mushroom farm.

“If it wasn’t for the funding, we received from the Fiji Women’s Fund, we would not have been able to do the training that will enable us to expand our business,” said Susan Pocock, NWDG President.