The Pacific Conference of Churches is blessed to have over a quarter of an acre of vacant land on the edge of Suva’s Central Business District and within sight and walking distance of Government Buildings, UN offices, major corporations and ministries. Instead of the normal approach of building an income generating commercial property on the site, they have decided to do two things:
1)Create an organic food garden with which to provide vegetables, fruit, root crops and planting material for those in need.
2)Create a living, thought-provoking example to people who see the site every working day from the windows of their offices, buses or passing vehicles.
Netani Rika who works for the Pacific Conference of Churches says that “The food bank is an act of love and care for the less fortunate. It is an act of responsible stewardship for the land and the people who benefit from the food or planting material. With the Food Bank, we help to feed residents of the Father Law Home and provide school lunches once a week for students in a squatter settlement outside Suva.”
On a regional level, the concept has been replicated in Tonga with PCC funding and member church support. The PCC is awaiting Reserve Bank of Fiji approval to fund similar concepts in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.
“Our staff work in the garden once or twice a week and we will set up roof top gardens using newly learned permaculture techniques within the next 30 days. This effort will show how you can develop healthy vegetables in confined spaces (high rise flats, apartments or squatter settlements) where land is limited”
This is a tiny step towards addressing poverty (SDG1), hunger (SDG2) and health (SDG3) as well as offering options for climate action (SDG13) and life on land (SDG15). We hope individuals, groups and faith-based organizations will journey alongside us in putting this land to good use and helping our communities in need.”
We’d like to go about this in a big way across the region, however, Fiji’s financial regulations mean it’s difficult to transfer money overseas. We will just have to wait. Some members do not see this as an essential activity – we will need to design a theology on providing for the needy. We’d like to go into this in a big way which will need land – and for this we’re writing proposals to funders.
“Our impact has been relatively small however; we’ve brought relief to the families who use our food and planting materials.
“In Tonga we’ve been able to provide financial support for a member council which otherwise would have had difficulty sourcing funds”
“In Fiji, the Catholic church has embraced the concept and wants to start a Soup Kitchen for the street people”
At the end of the day, we would like to continue to support those who have been affected by this pandemic in a dignified and meaningful way”.