Sekove Laliqavoka remembers the villagers mocked him. They called him weird, crazy even. “But I stood my ground,” the 59 year old said, “and eventually they came to understand.” Even on organic Cicia island, where chemical fertilisers aren’t tolerated the concept of mulching took some time to take hold.
He started with a few banana trees, which he planted to beautify his empty front-yard. Two rows of banana trees. They stood side by side. He boxed in a row with wooden pallets, the other row he left alone. Everyday into the squares he poured waste from his kitchen, dried leaves, grass and other leafy material he knew would decompose. The unboxed trees received none.
Over time, the trees fed with organic materials, blossomed. They grew tall, a vibrant green and gave birth to more plants. The ones without did grow but failed to propagate. The villagers noticed. “They came asking for the bananas from my trees,” he said. And they commented on Laliqavoka’s experiment. “They wanted to know what I was doing, it got people talking.”
Laliqavoka was excited. He couldn’t contain himself as he encouraged everyone at Tarukua village to do mulching. “When I first started doing it, I went at it in a big way and they were telling me that I was wasting my time,” he said. “But I proved them wrong with the banana trees experiment.”
Laliqavoka’s choice for organics doesn’t end with farming. He also consumes only organically grown food. Shop food items contain chemicals that he fears. His organic philosophy dates back to the garden. What garden, people ask him. “The garden of Eden, for it all began there. They had everything and bought nothing. All they ate was natural, seeds, nuts and grains.”
“Even the Bible’s Daniel practiced this. He ate from the garden. He was smart, and wise. We must eat clean, free of chemicals.” He believes in reciprocity. Give health to the land and earn good health in return. “They wouldn’t believe me when I talked about mulching and composting because it’s the truth. Organic is the way to go but the truth is always hard to accept,” he said.
“Give the land good things like mulch and compost and it gives so much in return. Be kind, be merciful.” Mynah birds and other wild creatures crowd his garden. Their loud chatter and singsong is music to his ears. “They come to eat pawpaw and other food wastes I place in my compost boxes. I feed them and they give me natural fertilisers as they poo all over my garden.”
“I’m kind to them and they are to me,” he added, “for the bible says ‘blessed are those that love for they will be loved’.” Laliqavoka continues to champion mulching and by living a life of example, has won many villagers over.