Pacific Organic & Ethical Trade Community


Posted On: December 17, 2017

She lives in a grass home, still.

When Cyclone Pam struck two years ago, she remembers clinging to the rafters, terrified

Her family did the same, five children and their parents, resisting the furious winds, human pegs anchoring their grass dwelling to the ground. Somehow, they succeeded.

When the wind retreated, they walked outside to a bombed landscape, flattened grass plains, uprooted banyan and coconut trees.

She felt lucky. This time around, she thought.

Melina Loui is a 19-year-old, Year 7 (equivalent of Form 1) student of Lamlu Secondary School in Middle Bush, Tanna. She’s a few forms late. She should be in Year 12 but Melina has had struggles in life.

As the oldest child and being a girl, in a patriarchal community as Middle Bush, there are many things expected of her. Sometimes a mother to her siblings, a cook for the family, a labourer on the family farm. However, never really expected to get an education let alone finish one. Times have changed. Societal expectations too about girls and education so Melina started going to school, though much later in life.
Ironically, her hopes for the future are not inspired by her classroom. She is not thinking about nursing, teaching or becoming a lawyer.

All she wants is to ‘mekem wan haos’ (make one house). A cyclone proof home – made with modern construction materials, strong enough to withstand another Pam.

‘I know it is going to be expensive but I’ve already started saving some money and in two to three years I’ll have enough. I hope that we do not have another rough one like Pam between now and then,’ she said.

Melina joined Napil Rural Training Centre’s organic farming programme to learn about planting a variety of vegetables (ball cabbages, lettuces, carrots, onions, spring onions, garlic etc) that she could sell.

The Centre is far from her home at Lenbubunipen but on days she needs to be there, she makes it.
The programme design requires she spends up to two weeks at the farming centre gardens learning all she can.

An important part of the learning is growing organic vegetables the proper way, applying the various strategies from mulching, making composts, integrating her crops, preparing vegetable nurseries using only organic ingredients and washing chemicals off seeds before planting.

The other two weeks in the month, Melina is growing her vegetables at home, applying what she has learnt. Every day she goes to school.

Napil is one of the focuses of the Farm to Table Engaging Vanuatu Youth in Organic Agriculture project because of its engagements with youth farmers.

The project is implemented as a partnership between the Sustainable Development Goal Fund, UNDP Pacific Programme Office in Suva, Farm Support Association, the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries, Forests and Biosecurity of Vanuatu and the Pacific Organic and Ethical Trade Community.
The project supplies seeds, farming implements, and supports the organic certification of the vegetable farms.

This means Melina is also learning about organic certification. Keeping proper records of crops and yields. Using the Pacific Organic Standard as a guide for all her farming efforts. Participating in peer review exercises.

Fitting to the vision of the project, Melina has learnt new farming skills and is using them to secure an income.

Once a month, she makes the 30-kilometre trip to Lenakel market to sell her farm produce. All the money she earns is deposited in her savings account. Financial literacy training and learning to save for future needs is also part of the training the young farmers receive.

In two years, Melina will graduate from the three-year organic farming programme.

‘I’m looking forward to taking my passbook,’ she smiles referring to her bank savings.

‘It will be full too, you know. There will be enough for the house,’ she said, happiness radiating from her eyes.

It is a joy redolent of having the financial ability and independence to afford things.

While helping a young person like Melina to create income opportunities in organic farming, the project is contributing to youth unemployment solutions in Vanuatu.

About 8.9 percent of youths in Vanuatu are unemployed. Around 44 percent live in Fiji. The Farm to Table project is also being implemented in Fiji and Samoa.


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