Silana villagers in Tailevu witnessed the first Saemaul Undong (SMU) Pilot Village Project ground breaking for  their footpath yesterday.

While officiating at the ground-breaking event, Minister for Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations, Youth and Sports, Honourable Parveen Kumar thanked the village elders for taking on the initiative to embark on the 5 year project.

He also thanked the Republic of Korea for providing funding assistance and support to ensure development within the village community.

“My presence here today is to support this development initiative and also to ensure processes undertaken, are effective and transparent,” said Minister Kumar.

“This is the first of the three pilot projects under the SMU Pilot Project. Two years ago there was a MOU signed and 3 villages in Fiji were identified which included Silana.”

These development projects have been initiated by the Fiji Embassy in Seoul in cooperation with the Ministry of Interior and Safety (MOIS), the Saemaul Undong (SMU) Center of Korea and the Ministry of Youth and Sports in Fiji since 2016.

The 3 rural villages, namely Naimasimasi and Silana village in Tailevu and Mau village in Namosi province have been earmarked for the project to be rolled out over the course of 5 years, commencing from 2020 to 2024, targeting SMU training and village development projects.

Minister Kumar reiterated that it was important for the village community of Silana to take ownership of their projects and development.

“You as a village will take the ownership and you will lead this project. The Government’s role in SMU is to provide support that is in terms of technical, administration and financial aspects. The decision making role is that of the community,” said Minister Kumar.

The villages’ proposal for their 2020 implementation of their pilot programs has been received by the Saemaul Undong Centre this month, following which the first phase of funds have been released to them this week in their designated bank accounts. According to the SMU Centre responsible for the SMU implementation, the village bank accounts are co-managed by the SMU representative in Fiji together with the Ministry of Youth and Sports and the Ministry of iTaukei Affairs.

This development project has evolved through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), signed in 2018 by the Fiji Ministry of Youth and Sports and the Korean Ministry of Interior and Safety for the introduction and implementation of the SMU rural development model in Fiji. The 2020 projects for the 3 Fijian villages are expected to be completed by the end of this year and proposals for the 2021 projects will be submitted to the Korea SMU Centre early next year.  The SMU training for this project which was scheduled to be held this September in Korea for 20 members from the 3 villages has been moved to 2021 due to the current closure of the borders.

The SMU is a Korean rural development model formally recognised by the Korean Government and the United Nations (UN) that is widely acclaimed and credited to have uplifted the livelihood of the Korean rural population during the 1950’s.

The SMU Center has a global membership of 41 countries with 21 countries as full members and 20 as associate members including Fiji. It has trained government officials and villagers from over 44 countries and has coordinated Pilot Village Development Projects in 10 countries.