When Jazinta Levi was a little girl, her father, Hiva Levi made her and a cousin sit on his truck full of organic banana trees, wearing attire made from organic pandanus leaves. It was national show day in Niue.
‘I was embarrassed but he was trying to make an impact, a statement about the value of organics that I didn’t really understand until a few years later.’ she said. He later showed her how to plant bananas and other fruit trees. Hiva was one of the founding fathers of the Pacific organic movement and also helped establish the Niue Organic Farmers Association.
Decades on, Jazinta’s organic varieties of bananas, herbs, vegetables and root-crops held their own at the Hakupu village show day competing with the best from her community. They also earn her a bonus income. The 25–year-old is a strategic planner for the government and is so passionate about organic farming that it has become a way of life. how does a young woman become so engrossed with a ‘chore’ hardly considered a woman’s domain? He planted the seeds in my life that has now flourished into what I love doing now!’ she said.
‘I wouldn’t be interested in organic farming if it wasn’t for him. he has taught me so much. Yes I may pick up some tips and tricks from Pinterest and various blogs online but most of my knowledge about organic in Niue is from him especially the traditional knowledge that he passed down from my grandfather.’
Farming using traditional knowledge that is complemented by access to current and accessible sources of information and platforms for marketing like the internet is an aspect of a project supported by the CTA. The CTA YLLP is linked to the IFAD CBRAP project.
A theme central to both projects implemented in Niue, Marshall Islands and Cook Islands is the need to attract youth back into agriculture by using a scientific and ICT approach. As a participant of the CTA project, Jazinta learnt about using the art of storytelling to show the value of organic farming by using
social media to reach out to the masses – especially young Pacific Islanders. About 100 youth were engaged in the training workshops held in the three countries this year.
She shares her pursuits on her Facebook page by using images of her organic garden produce, which attracts likes, shares and interest while simultaneously marketing her products. Jazinta has a small scale plant nursery that sells vegetables and herb seedlings at show days and the local weekly market. The nursery setup was supported by the IFAD CBRAP project.
She also plans to open a cafe that uses organic produce from the farm with a little farmers market to go with it. ‘Ever since I was 12 I have been interested in organic farming and now that I have the means and wider understanding, I can grow organic without being embarrassed and I’m proud to say that I am an organic farmer because it is actually hard work,’ she said.
‘I love to grow plants of all sorts-vegetables, herbs, fruit trees and flowers! I enjoy watching them grow from seed and nurturing them throughout the growth stages and of course the harvest at the end where I get to make delicious meals from what I grow.’
‘Gardening just makes me feel at ease. It’s nature’s therapy that I enjoy.’ Jazinta also value adds on her organic farm produce. ‘I’ve dried fruits and sold them and made vanilla ice cream which I’ve found to be quite a hit with tourists,’ she said. ‘Organic farming has proven to be an awesome hobby of mine because I get to earn pocket money, harvest food and have fun at the same time.’
‘I particularly enjoy organic gardening because I love the challenge of growing the natural way without short cuts such as fertilisers and weed killer. I’m also health conscious so with the limited organic fruit and vegetable available on the island, why not grow my own right?
Everything, I have grown is organic. It’s not only the effects those toxic chemicals may have on our bodies but also the environment so why take the risk.’
It has been a year of breakthroughs for her organic farm and also one of personal loss. ‘Before my father passed away he taught me how he planted award winning bananas because of their gigantic sizes. I am extremely lucky; his legacy lives on in me.’ she said.
This young farmer believes young people need to start farming early in life to even consider pursuing it as career later on in life. It must also be considered as a business opportunity. ‘Niue youth are engaged in agriculture but not so much organic farming. We have grown up farming for our families so it is perceived as a chore and not a business opportunity,’ she said.
‘Farming must be made interesting through using things like social media, visuals, audio media, fitness and health and profit. When young people understand the many benefits of farming other than just ‘grow your own food’ perhaps they would be interested in looking at it as a career path operating and organic farm on a large scale and not just a chore. They won’t develop an interest if they don’t know where to begin.’
‘That’s why I love both projects coordinated by POETCom because it’s engaging young people like the children of Vaiea who are doing organic backyard gardening and they are mostly below the age of ten. It’s never too early to start farming, my father knew that and now he lives on in my life because of organic farming!’