New Zealand Farmer Collecting GLOBALG.A.P. Award for 2016
NEW ZEALAND FARMER COLLECTING GLOBALG.A.P. AWARD FOR 2016
14 September 2016
Press Release: Dr John Bevan-Smith
Ranadi Plantation Partnership, along with three other farms, has been awarded the prestigous GLOBALG.A.P. award for 2016. Chinese-Fijian New Zealander, Jodi Smith, Ranadi’s CEO, will leave for Amsterdam later this month to collect the award at the GLOBALG.A.P. Summit, to be officially opened by Prince Pieter-Christiaan van Oranje-Nassau and at which where there will be 63 speakers and representatives from 49 countries.
With no formal agricultural experience, but with a wide-ranging skillset and a profound desire to make a difference, Smith began in 2013 to turn this beautifully situated plantation on Viti Levu’s southern coast from a subsistence family farm into a trend-setting commercial unit specialising in the growing, packing and export of organic ginger. From the beginning, Smith instituted a strategy that has arguably been the key to her and the plantation’s subsequent success: the empowering of women, in what is traditionally a strongly patrilineal society, through their on-the-job education, weekly group meetings and their increasingly autonomous involvement in running the farm using the G.A.P. practices Smith introduced. Three of Ranadi’s six team leaders and its Chief Operating Officer are now indigenous women over the age of 40.
Fiji’s first and only GLOBALG.A.P. certified farm, Ranadi Plantation is exporting organic ginger to New Zealand. Since achieving G.A.P. and organic certification, Ranadi has regularly opened its doors to other farmers, giving training in such practices as recycling, tropical polyculture farming and sustainable soil management. Under Smith’s guidance, Ranadi aims to empower its subsistence farmer suppliers by giving them the knowledge, systems and market access to assist them in creating their own cooperatives. As reported in the Fiji Sun online (15 August 2015) Ranadi Plantation is working with a group of farmers in a remote part of Vanua Levu, and is aiming for this organic cooperative to become Fiji-wide. Its commitment is not only to pay a fair per kilo price, but also to ensure farmers receive a percentage of the final export buying price, an innovative if not revolutionary concept introduced by Smith.
As Smith puts it: “By default I became a farmer, sales person and exporter, and learnt first hand about the challenges of farming in and supplying from a developing country. Competition rather than cooperation is the guiding principle of most members in the value chain; the result is a disparate agricultural industry where growers, most of whom are subsistence farmers, have little opportunity to share knowledge, hone their skills and create consistent quality product. Growers make little return for their effort, and there are few if any arrangements or support mechanisms in place to ensure farmers get a fair deal. The free market is neither free nor fair for famers in developing countries. It is a race to the bottom in terms of price and I want to see that change.” The 2016 GLOBALG.A.P award for Ranadi Plantation Partnership not only rewards G.A.P principles and practices followed by Smith and Ranadi but is also an acknowledgment that women in traditional societies can make a difference in a male-dominated economic activity.
Smith’s robust philosophy and untiring advocacy for women and good agricultural practice (G.A.P.) is no longer just confined to Ranadi, its employees, suppliers and customers. Smith sits on the Fiji-NZ Business Council and is working with POETCom to re-establish the Fiji Organics Association. As well, she is now venturing into her own organic business manufacturing high-quality coconut food and beverage products. Cocoterra Group, which Smith co-founded with fellow New Zealander John McCullough, will be a pan-Pacific coconut dairy business aiming to effect social and economic change for peoples of the Pacific through the harnessing of this plentiful yet under-utilised resource. Cocoterra Group will do this through sustainable and environmentally-friendly practices respecting the foundation of indigenous peoples’ religious, economic and cultural roots. Cocoterra Group believes that the soul of a country belongs to its people, the stewards of a country’s land and sea. Symbolically, the coconut tree represents the sustainabilty and stability of life in the Pacific and this is what inspires Smith and McCullough to work with this resource. All contributing growers will be trained to farm using organic, sustainable and G.A.P. farming practices.