The European Union (EU) Ambassador to Fiji and the Pacific, His Excellency, Mr Andrew Jacobs and Australia's High Commissioner to Fiji, Her Excellency, Ms Margaret Twomey today handed over equipment valued at approximately F$330,000 (EUR €141,000) to Fiji Sugar Corporation (FSC) on behalf of the Training Support to the Fijian Sugarcane Industry project, marking the completion of the four-year project.
The assets were part of the EU-funded Training Support to the Fijian Sugarcane Industry project implemented by the Australia-Pacific Technical College (APTC) to improve the livelihoods of the sugarcane dependent populations, by promoting income generation through sugarcane farming or alternative livelihoods.
The equipment included vehicles, hand and electrical tools, training resources, computers, projectors, as well as other office equipment.
In his remarks, Ambassador Jacobs said the Training Support to the Fijian Sugarcane Industry has been part of the longstanding assistance that the EU has been providing to the sugar sector in Fiji, amounting to about EUR €50 million (FJ $119 million) to date.
''The European Union is proud to have supported this initiative. Partnering with DFAT and APTC has proved highly effective in empowering and enhancing the capacities and skills of people in the sugar sector – this is a crucial contribution which ensures people have effective income safety nets and are able to earn their living with dignity. The assets handed over to the FSC today will not only better equip the FSC to provide effective advisory services to farming communities, but also help it to sustain skills development and learning for the entire industry workers,'' said Ambassador Jacobs, who earlier in the month handed over similar equipment to the Ministry of Agriculture as part of the SPC-EU “Improving Key Services to Agriculture” (IKSA) project.
''For the future, the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) includes an envelope of (FJD 45 million) EUR 20 million to support the agriculture sector and sugar subsector reform in Fiji. The preparation of this programme is ongoing in close cooperation with the government and should be completed in the course of 2017.'' added Ambassador Jacobs.
H.E. Ms Margaret Twomey, said, “I am delighted that Australia’s partnership with the EU has been successful in helping Fijians in the sugar belt areas”.
The project trained more than 1,600 people including over 800 FSC employees. Over 350 leader farmers were also upskilled through various workshops to enhance their technical, business and leadership skills.
The training for the Fijian sugarcane industry workers was delivered by the Australia-Pacific Technical College (APTC), an innovative development project of the Australian Government, delivering internationally recognised skills and qualifications for a wide range of vocational careers for skilled workers across the Pacific region.
Through the project, APTC partnered with Habitat for Humanity Fiji to support recovery efforts post Cyclone Winston by developing the construction skills of 33 students including displaced FSC Penang mill workers and family members of local sugarcane farmers through the Certificate II in Construction program. As part of this qualification, students constructed 70 cyclone-resilient houses for families that were badly affected by the cyclone.
FSC Chief Executive Officer, Mr Graham Clark extended his appreciation to the EU and the Australian Government, and said that the upskilling of its workforce has brought about operational improvement as FSC continues to drive the organisation forward.
“The challenge will be for our staff to put into practice all that they have learned. Management will ensure it provides a conducive environment that allows its staff to grow and maximise their potential at a time when the Corporation is embarking on the change management process in line with its new strategic plan,” said Mr Clark.
He added that FSC will ensure it maximises the use of training equipment in training and development of its staff. Most of the equipment will be used at its new training centre which is nearing completion and the others will be used at the mills.
The delegates at the handover ceremony were provided a tour of the new FSC Training Centre that is near completion. The EU contributed F$550,000 for the construction of this new building which will enable FSC and other sugarcane industry stakeholders to access modern facilities for future training opportunities to enhance the work carried out by APTC through the project.