Pacific Organic & Ethical Trade Community


Posted On: December 17, 2017

Twenty-year-old Peter Willie likes the discipline of an organic farming life.

There are rules and standards he must keep in order to maintain certification for his crops. Willie has studied excerpts of the Pacific Organic Standard.

With his peers, the young women and men of Middle Bush, Tanna that love farming and receive training at the Napil Rural Training Centre (NRTC), he pledged faithfulness to the spirit of guardianship of natural resources, keeping it pure for use by future generations.

He believes he is keeping true to his promise by being an organic farmer, producing organically certified products certified under a Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) of organic certification.

‘I came here and learnt two interesting things, the spacing is very important in farming and the line,’ he told the visiting team from the Pacific Organic Ethical Trade Community, with pride.

Rows of evenly spaced ball cabbages interspersed with lettuce, tomatoes, and carrots adorn the rich Centre gardens and display integrated cropping as a principle of organic farming.

He appreciates the rigors of farming life and the prizes gained along the way, a blossoming bank account and one-day realising his dreams of a gleaming new truck, and a strong house, sturdy enough to withstand the worst of any storm.

We caught up with him cooking soil for nursery seeding trays in the half of a 40-gallon drum. He placed a piece of manioc (cassava) inside the seeding soil as a gauge. When the cassava is cooked, the seeding soil is ready.

Farm Support Association (FSA), the implementers of the Farm to Table Engaging Vanuatu Youth in Organic Farming project has been trialling the NRTC approach, training young farmers like Willie to increase the productivity of traditional farming systems of Middle Bush.

The rapidly rising population of Middle Bush demands greater farm productivity for nutrition and as a means of remunerative self-employment for young people utilising their land resources.

The NRTC work with young farmers is the brainchild of Peter Kaoh, a manager for FSA. He fashioned it on the Tutu Rural Training Centre in Fiji and modified it for the Middle Bush context.

The Farm to Table project supports the NRTC approach with seedlings, farm implements and the setup of Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) of organic certification.

The main aim of the project in doing this is to ensure young farmers equipped with organic farming skills, create self-employment opportunities through the sale of their organic crops, or supplying markets. This creates a value chain approach of public private partnerships in the key economic sectors of agriculture and tourism.

Farm to Table is a partnership approach between FSA, UNDP Pacific Programme, Sustainable Development Goal Fund (SDG-Fund), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and POETCom.

Willie’s manioc gauge shows the promotion of traditional practices in organic agriculture. It is practical too; temperature gauges are often beyond the means of farmers in rural, isolated locations.

The NRTC occupies 2.5 hectares of arable land, along the dusty, well-travelled, gravelled road that weaves its way through the heartland.

The road eventually forks into two – the one climbing to the crater of crackling Mt Yasur that occasionally causes acid rain to fall on the farming spreads while the other slopes down to Lenakel, the administration centre of Tanna Island.

It is almost the end of the month of July. Temperatures ranging between 11-12 degrees Celsius bites the skin. Willie is barely breaking sweat in the glaring sun, digging holes for ball cabbages.

Soon he will be off to the market at Lenakel with his crops, a month end routine that culminates with his hands full of cold, hard cash, and a joyous whoop.

‘It feels good. Before I had nothing, not one single cent.’


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