Vaiea’s little farmers
‘Eww! Yucky!’ the kid shrieked, jumping to avoid an earthworm. His friends laughed at him.
Nadia with her children in the little farmyard
Another shriek erupted from a different corner of the garden when a caterpillar was discovered.
These were familiar scenes when Nadia Fomai and the children of Vaiea village on Niue Island began setting up the prettiest of backyard gardens, using recycled materials, compost, and fermented fish blood.
The children, 23 in all, are aged between 5 and 12 years.
At least three times a week, in the afternoon, they run to the gardens, eager to learn all about plants, the soil and all the creatures that live in it.
‘Now they are fighting over earthworms – that’s mine, that going in my garden in my plot!’ Nadia related.
‘I think I’ve made a change there – because at first they were screaming like someone hurt someone else or stepped on a nail when it was in fact a little tiny worm. But now no one is scared, as they know the importance of earthworms in keeping the soil healthy and helping their vegetable grow well.
Cabbages and lettuces bloomed out of pallet slats. Handheld spades carved out of empty bleach bottles were used to dig small holes for planting.
‘While they learn about organic gardening and being kind to nature and the soil, they are also taking on recycling ideas,’ she added.
Nadia shares with them the difference between organic and chemical farming methods.
“I tell them organic farming is safe because I believe there’s no harmful chemical left in the vegetables at the point of eating,” she said.
The next step of the project, which has been active for just over a month, is applying organic fertilisers and pest control methods.
“I’ve been experimenting with fish blood for fertiliser and it has worked perfectly on my flowers, and will too on the vegetables.”“hen the men in the community return from fishing, I offer to clean the fish so I can collect the blood.
“It stinks really badly so I ferment it away from the community. After several days, the smell dies down. It’s worth the effort!”
Nadia’s garden lessons are supported by IFAD through the Capacity Building for Resilient Agriculture in the Pacific Project under its ‘nutritional gardening for families’ activity.
The project is implemented by the Niue Organic Farmers Association and POETCom.
It started with a drab meat dish Nadia was cooking one day.
“There were no vegetables, no variety that is. We only had ‘bele’ and we were eating it all the time,” she said.
“It’s quite expensive to purchase vegetables from the shops so I thought we could start planting other types besides the local variety because Niue has a great climate for planting.”
“I decided to include the little ones so they would know about the importance of having healthy, nutritious meals, and to inspire them to love gardening, getting their hands dirty in growing plants and having a healthy food supply.
“The vegetables they plant they take home and in this way we help families eat healthy, nutritious food.
“It is important that we work with younger children if we want to keep them engaged in farming.’
“My mother taught me to love gardening and I’ve done it all my life. Remember the Bible teaches us to train up a child on the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it!”