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How do you strengthen a country’s food systems while supporting its post-COVID-19 economic recovery and mitigating the impacts of climate change? The women of Muanaira in Fiji have a simple answer: farm oysters!

This story is part of a series dedicated to the collaboration between the Pacific Community (SPC) and New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), as part of the renewal of their multi-year partnership.

Oyster shells piling up in baskets, footsteps in the shallow, muddy waters, the voices of women chatting in the early morning light: we are on the delta of the Rewa River, not far from Suva, Fiji’s capital on the island of Viti Levu.

Walking over sharp shells in dense mangrove areas to harvest the oysters that cling to their roots is an activity traditionally performed by women from the neighbouring Muanaira community. It allows them to diversify their family’s diet while increasing their income.

But the lives of the women of Muanaira took a new turn in 2018, when a project implemented by the Fiji Ministry of Fisheries and the Pacific Community, with funding from New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), helped them move from collecting wild oysters to farming them.

To help the community transition from wild oyster harvesting to farming, SPC and its partners started a South-South exchange programme: an oyster farmer from Mago Island, Fiji, attended a training course in Australia, a country with a long tradition of commercial aquaculture. Once back in Fiji, this farmer ambassador went to Muanaira to share what he had learned and help the women start their own farming project. “That is when the funding from New Zealand kicked in,” Jimmy recalled. “We were able to purchase oyster baskets and help the community harvest wild spats (young oysters) for farming.”

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Women in Fiji farm the future with oysters