Women in the Pacific Island of Fiji are being helped to start small-scale flower-growing businesses to supplement their income, which in turn provides extra food and housing improvements for their families.
One of the world's most popular flowers, orchids have fascinated people since the earliest times. They've been associated with love, luxury, beauty, virility, and gentleness. With over 25,000 naturally occurring species and 100,000 registered hybrids, they're the largest family of flowers on the planet. Throughout the Pacific Islands, these flowers are used for body ornaments and in births, weddings, and death ceremonies. And orchids are big business, says expert Aileen Burness.
The orchid growers, they produced, and we sold 100,000 sprays of orchids. Now that money was all left in Fiji to the growers.
Aileen knows a lot about these flowers. Her company, South Sea Orchids, is the biggest domestic supplier of cut flowers in the Fiji Islands, a South Pacific nation. Aileen wants to pass on the secrets of how to grow these beautiful flowers and, at the same time, use them to make a living. She approached the Fijian Government and the UN Development Programme, UNDP, with a project whereby her company assisted women growers to obtain bank loans for shade houses, planting materials, and provided training workshops and technical advice. Each grower became an independent business in itself. Verona Lucas has 4,000 orchids of the Dendrobium variety. But most women plant much smaller quantities. Natalau, a village of 300 people in Western Fiji is becoming well-known countrywide thanks to the production of orchids. Ten small entrepreneurs here have benefited from the project. The money generated by the flower business is a most welcome extra source of income for their families. The plants take 12 months to flower. The women help each other by exchanging experiences and techniques. Mataike Saukuru has been growing orchids since 1999. She has 200 plants in the garden next to her home. The village's land belongs to the entire community, but each woman keeps the profits of their labor. A mother of two, Mataika used the income generated by the flowers to buy food and housing improvements. She's delighted to participate in the project.
My husband was the only one working in the family, he was the only breadwinner in the family, so I decided to plant orchids to help him.
South Sea Orchids guarantees the purchase of the women's entire production. The business is booming. They are now preparing to export the flowers to Australia. As a result of this project, the life of dozens of families throughout Fiji have improved. UNDP's Pacific Sustainable Livelihoods Programme Chief, Jeff Liew.
Invariably, the first profits is always invested in the home and you will notice that we work primarily with women and we know for a fact that women invest more in their families.
Fiji is an important tourist destination and the service industry is a significant outlet for these flowers. The potential for growth is enormous. Orchids are much cheaper to produce locally than roses. And for many they're just as pretty. This report was prepared by Chaim Litewski for the United Nations.