Youth learning exchange in Vanuatu hailed a success

It is always going to be a noisy, boisterous affair when young people from Pacific Island countries meet. For after all, Pacific Islanders enjoy song, music and dance in their gatherings.

The Pacific Organic Youth Farmers Learning Exchange lived up to this reputation during an exciting week of sharing farming ideas for climate resilience and having fun at the same time.

The exchange was held in Port Vila, Vanuatu from 9–13 October 2017. It was a key output of three projects coordinated by the Pacific Organic and Ethical Trade Community: (i) the International Fund for Agriculture Development’s Capacity Building for Resilient Agriculture in the Pacific Project; (ii) the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) Youth Leading Learning in Resilient Agriculture in the Pacific Project (YLLP); and (iii) the Engaging Youth in Fiji and Vanuatu in Organic Farming: A Farm to Table Chain Approach, supported by the UNDP Pacific Office and the Sustainable Development Goal Fund.

At the farm in Teuma after a demonstration

Teariki Patai from Cook Islands with workshop coordinator Faumuina Tafuna’i 

Even six-month old Andrew Sau could not stay away. Andrew’s mother, 24 year old Mare Sau from Tanna Island, was a participant, there to show off with her fellow islanders the marvels of using an A-frame in contour planting. It was interesting information to absorb. Participants from Niue, Cook Islands and Marshall Islands, whose farming terrain is largely flat, saw it for the first time.

Andrew Sau

The Ni-Vanuatu demonstrating the use of A-Frame vectors in contour farming. While demonstrations is underway, team members video record the session for sharing on social media.

Just as exciting, were the taro mulchers from Cook Islands. The Teariki’s, as they were called because both their first names are Teariki, demonstrated how Rarotongans use cardboard and coconut leaves that they call kikau.

Taro mulcher Teariki Sene from Cook Islands. He is using card boards and coconut leaves as mulch for a taro patch.

The Marshallese boys showed how they conquer the adversities of farming on a sandy atoll like Majuro with pit planting, and the Fijians were smart in their use of intercropping to build farm diversity and resilience to pests, and also have a bountiful harvest.

From Niue, sixteen year-old Anzac Mokole made compost.

Teariki Patai, 24, observed that peer learning is motivating. ‘When we see young farmers our age showing their knowledge about farming, we are motivated to be like them and to know so much too,’ he said. He showed everyone his skills in making fish emulsion. ‘I’m taking home pit planting. I see we can use it in the more sandy places on our farms. Intercropping has been very interesting, too,’ he added.

‘This is one of the best workshops I’ve seen happen with young farmers because they were really learning from each other and having so much fun,’ said Peter Kaoh of Farm Support Association, Vanuatu. Peter and his colleagues George Videre and Olivier Iato organised all the materials needed for the exchange, which happened at two sites.

At the Melanesian Hotel Conference Centre, the young farmers learnt how to create narratives or story boards of the resilient practices they would demonstrate; they rapped it, created poems about it and sang it. They also learnt how to document it using videos. And at the farm in Teuma, the films rolled as they acted out their best resilience farming practice.

The Niueans and Fijians at the back

Performing their storyboard as a rap, the boys from Cook Islands 

Output four of CTA-YLLP is that lessons learned from IFAD-CBRAPP are widely shared through a regional learning workshop and a shared social media platform. The IFAD project focussed on working with young farmers to develop and document best farming practices. Having documented their best practice, the young farmers posted them on the Pacific Organic Warriors page, thus fulfilling the aims of both projects in reaching out to as many as 600 youths.

Pacific Organic Warriors page on Facebook 

Mr Benjamin Shing, Vanuatu’s Director-General for the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry, Fisheries and Biosecurity, said that young farmers are the perfect champions for inspiring their peers to do the right kind of farming. ‘This is indeed a worthwhile effort, for farms are the basis of our food systems; without them we would all go to bed hungry,’ he said.



Benjamin Shing at the Exchange with Peter Kaoh from Farm Support Association 

Resilient practices demonstrated by youth farmers have been documented in information sheets and videos and shared on the POETCom website, and on its social media platforms.