by Zhang Yongxing
SUVA, Dec. 29 (Xinhua) -- "China's Juncao technology cooperation project is helping Fijians like me to eradicate poverty and get richer, and I really appreciate such a help," a Fijian has told Xinhua.
Like those who have benefited from the Juncao technology (Jun means fungi and Cao means grass), which not only helps produce cattle feed and minimizes soil erosion in the Pacific island nation, but also develops a low-cost mushroom cultivation industry, Sunia Vatanitawake, a 42-year-old farmer from the Muanaira village of the Rewa Delt, eastern side of the Viti Levu, the largest island of Fiji, has got the knowledge to cultivate mushrooms and enjoyed it very much.
"Our village is situated on the isolated island, completely surrounded by water (the Rewa River), and our connection with the outside world just depends on the water taxi (powered boat). As you can see, our cultivable land is very limited here and what we can eat everyday (Fijian traditional food) is dalo, cassava and coconut, we are very short of fresh and green vegetables," he said in front of his China-aided plastic shed with a lot of mushroom inside.
"The Chinese experts have taught me how to plant mushrooms. This is very good for us because it can not only enrich our food, but also help us make extra money," he said.
Chinese experts have been training up farmers in the island nation on how to grow mushrooms to supply the local market and boost their incomes.
"I want to thank China for sending us such nice experts and hope the good relations between our two countries can continue," the good-natured man said while giving a thumbs-up to the Chinese experts.
In the Muanaira village, a total of seven families are now cultivating mushrooms, and some of them even eat mushrooms as part of their meals three times a day.
The Juncao technology was invented in the 1980s by Lin Zhanxi, a professor at China's Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University, who is also the chief scientist for the China-Fiji Juncao Technology Cooperation Project which was established in 2014 after the Chinese and Fijian governments inked an agreement to start the agriculture cooperation.
According to Lin Zhansen, leader of a 8-member Chinese experts team of the project based in Nadi, Fiji's third largest city, the second phase of the Juncao technology project was implemented in December 2017 as the experts began to provide technical demonstration, training and promotion to farmers in the nation. Currently, more than 1,000 farmers and technicians have been trained, more than 20,000 substrate tubes and 200,000 roots of Juncao grass have been distributed to Fijan farmers who eagerly want to raise mushrooms.
"Juncao has been praised by Fijians as a magic grass from China and this technology allows farmers in developing countries, including small island developing states like Fiji, to grow as many as 11 types of nutritious mushrooms from dried, chopped grasses, without cutting down trees and damaging the environment, " Lin said.
"We have selected Muanaira as one of the most important villages in the island nation to help them cultivate mushrooms," Lin said.
In Fiji, there is a huge demand for mushrooms now and more and more people are willing to learn the way to grow mushrooms because mushrooms are a good income generator for farmers.
"Mushroom is a short-term crop which is usually in high demand in Fiji and if grown well, it can also generate good revenue for Fijian farmers, " Lin added.
Losalini, a 43-year old woman from the Tawakilagi village not far away from Fijian's capital airport, told Xinhua that her family had begun to grow mushrooms for two months and she was very satisfied with the mushrooms cultivated in a plastic shed in her garden.
"I did not know how to grow mushrooms until the Chinese experts came and trained me. I am very happy that I can cultivate mushrooms now and sell them to make extra money to support my family," she said.
Tokasa Sesinee Vosararawa, a 86-year-old woman from the Fijian capital city of Suva, told Xinhua that the training class was perfect and she wanted to know the secrets to cultivate mushrooms.
"The Chinese experts are doing very well. They train our farmers, disabled people and those who are interested in this training of mushrooms cultivation. As Fijians, we do appreciate their work as they are helping our farmers, helping us reduce imported mushrooms," said Ateleni Kaloumaira, a 34-year-old project coordinator from Fiji's Ministry of Agriculture, voicing her satisfaction over the work by the Chinese experts.
Fiji's Ministry of Agriculture is working closely with the China-Fiji Juncao technology cooperation project to intensify the growing of mushroom in the country.
Currently, more than 500 companies, including the Juncao technology demonstration center, have been licensed with over 3,600 products registered under the Fijian Made campaign, which started in 2011 for organically grown foods and products in Fiji. The island nation also aims to reduce significantly the importation of mushrooms by 2020 through the continued efforts of the Ministry of Agriculture and the Chinese experts team in training local farmers.
Chinese Ambassador Qian Bo hailed the Juncao technology project as capacity building, saying that Juncao technology can help small island countries like Fiji to develop sustainable agriculture, reduce poverty, achieve sustainable development, address the challenges of climate change and promote renewable energy.