Jermin Yauko was 11 and in year 7 when she was forced to drop out of her school in Vanuatu. There was no more money to cover her school fees. Overnight, her life changed.
The closing of the school door ended her ambitions of becoming a school teacher. She returned to the farm where expectations were different. In a world of pen and paper, chalk and blackboards, exams and school grades mattered.
Now she must pass a different kind of test, the test of farm life. She must thrive in the rituals of Lamlu village, tending to the gardens and animals, to survive. Jermin accepted her lot and found that unlike popular belief a good life can be made in farming.
She farms taro, ball cabbages and corn using organic methods and is supported to achieve organic certification and gain more from her farm through the two-year United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) ‘Farm to Table’ project in partnership with the Pacific Organic and Ethical Trade Community (POETCom) and Farm Support Association (FSA).
Organic certification will be through a Participatory Guarantee System, which is a peer review mechanism of auditing compliance with the Pacific Organic Standards.
“I like it that I don’t use chemicals. It has poison, chemical fertilisers are poison because it can damage the land and also our health,” she said. The 18-year-old sells her crops at Lenatal Market and sometimes at the big market in Port Villa. Her farm earnings are saved in a bank account.
Jermin learnt about bank savings at the Napil Rural Training Centre located in the rural area of Middle Bush on Tanna Island, a stone’s throw from her village. The centre through a course called the Vanuatu Young Farmers Development is a trial by FSA to increase the productivity of traditional farming systems like that which Jermin operates in.
The programme engages village based youth especially young women in commercial agriculture. The organic component supported by the UNDP Farm to Table project will also promote the creation of a supply pathway from the farm to hotel tables forging links between the agriculture and tourism sectors, for the benefit of young farmers.
She hopes to save enough for the future.
“One day when I get married and have children I hope I have saved enough so that i can afford my family a better standard of living,” she said. “I don’t have electricity at home, that is something I’d like to see happen. “I don’t want to be reliant on anyone and farming is helping me become financially independent.”