The farmers conference was considered a great success by all those who attended with about 120 participating on the day. The key purpose of bringing people together was for the farmers to meet and share ideas, recognise that they are considered “the experts” in their communities, and encourage open communication and learning. Each group has a “champion” who helps with the organisation of monthly sessions, and it was wonderful to see the local mentors grasp the challenge of presenting to a large group as well as participating, integrating and sharing ideas between groups.
TTT committee members worked with groups encouraging people to share their successes, both on paper as a poster to put on the wall for everyone to see during tea and lunch breaks, as well as presentations.
At the closing of the day, the Chairman of TTT presented a summary of the discussions as a list of priorities for Tei Tei Taveuni for the future:
- More training (classes, guest speakers)
- More sharing – workshops, conferences
- Trials on farms
- Another volunteer after Geoff
- Inputs/Fertilizers – make our own, buy cheaper
- Alternative farming – i.e. vegetables
- Mucuna seed for green manure crops – assured supply
- Taro processing on Taveuni and price assistance for growers
A great day was had by all, vina’a va’a levu to the many people who helped to make it such a success. We plan for this to be a regular 6-monthly gathering of shared learning for TTT members.
Tei Tei Taveuni through Aus Aid ACIAR Soil Health Project, now have seven wood chippers on the island for farmers to use. The chippers are based at the following places:
South East - Vunivasa Est
North – Tovu Tovu
Central - Tutu
South – Eric Narayn
Waimaqera - Rt Seru
Vuna - Delai
Vuna - Latai Smith
The chippers make short work of branches up to two inches in width. The chipped leaves and chips are good material for compost heaps, or can be thrown around your dalo or yagona plants as green manure.
Tei Tei Taveuni is introducing the idea of alley cropping to increase the organic matter of our soils as green manure. More on alley cropping in the next issue. Pic shows chipper in use on Narova Group dalo trial plot.
It's Time To Plant Your Mucuna Beans
The benefits of mucuna beans are numerous but in particular they increase soil organic matter and nitrogen (N) for the following crop. Each leaf and branch that the mucuna plant grows has a small amount of N inside (3-4%) so the more growth by the plant, the more N is produced. When the plant dies and is decomposed in the soil the N inside is released and is then available for the following crop eg dalo, to take up. The beauty of this is that it is all free N – no need to buy it from the shop!
Mucuna beans planted now (December) will be ready to cut by June next year. This is good timing as the organic matter also forms a layer or mulch which then reduces weed growth (less sprays needed) and traps the soil moisture underneath (particularly useful in the dry season).
If you delay planting of mucuna beans there will be less branches and leaves and that means the plant produces less N. So you lose out!
Our experiences from last year also showed that the viability of the mucuna seed decreases with age so that after 8 months less than half the seed is able to grow.
If you don’t have much mucuna seed use this seed for multiplication.
Above is an example of a seed nursery, constructed by Tutu. Tei Tei Taveuni and MPI can help you set up a nursery for seed multiplication.
Alternatively, if you have enough seed, plan where you want to plant crops in June next year and plant the mucuna bean there now.
So its no good keeping that packet of mucuna seed on the shelf – plant it now before it is past its “use by date” and produce more free N!
Food for the soil and not for people.
ACIAR Soil Health
Australian Centre for International Agriculture Research (ACIAR) launched its soil Health project at Mua Research Center on Taveuni in early September.
Declining soil fertility and declining soil health are a major threat to sustainable agricultural development in the pacific. Intensified crop production and increased use of herbicides and in-organic fertilizers. Farmers are now experiencing lower yields and an increase in soil bourne diseases and nematodes. The project focuses on dalo production in Fiji and Samoa, vegetables in Kiribas.
The project focuses on developing methods of restoring soil health and research-based indicators that farmers and extension staff could use to asses soil health status, as well as extension approaches to communicate soil health concepts and methods to farmers.
Tei Tei Taveuni is working together with ACIAR and the Ministry of Agriculture in introducing farmers to these concepts and best methods of ensuring good soil health, improving soil health.
Acting Australian High Commisioner Mr Glen Miles Launching the Project.
Eliminating Poverty Day
TTT held a display at the Eliminating Poverty Day at Waiyevo, Taveuni in October. It was a wonderful opportunity to increase our profile as an active group involved in supporting sustainable agriculture on Taveuni.
The day was attended by turaga-ni-koro’s (village head-men) from Taveuni villages and also the new District Officer who asked many questions and showed a keen interest for us to be involved with more groups!
Biological farming was the key message we were promoting which has a central role in the elimination of poverty through farming sustainably. Healthy soil, increased yields, less poverty. The key theme from the Department which organised the day was to encourage people to change their thinking from “hand-out thinking to hand-up thinking” - put your hand up to be involved and become part of solution. TTT is doing this, vina’a va’a levu to everybody who helped out with the display on the day.
Tei Tei Taveuni is concerned that the African Tulip, an extremely invasive species that has now spread to Vanua Levu, and now beyond control there, may do the same in Taveuni. There may just be time to avoid this disaster in Taveuni.
The African tulip has been established many years in Taveuni, and has for some inexplicable reason not been destroyed. It is now spreading though and it is hoped that with the effort of MPI, Tei Tei Taveuni and all concerned farmers and residents of Taveuni it might be able to be controlled before it is to late.
An awareness program and census is only just starting to build momentum to deal with this menace.
We beg co-operation and community spirit from everybody, yes we, as individuals, can make a difference, please stand up and be counted and lets preserve Taveuni's natural heritage.
Tei Tei Taveuni Works On Getting Affordable Lime For Farmers
One of the big problems in getting the mineral balance right in the soil is the lack of Calcium. In Soil Schools we learned that the foundation was Calcium and Phosphorus and without a solid foundation the rest got difficult. Unfortunately Taveuni farmer’s pays 3-4 times as much for lime/calcium as Australian and New Zealand farmers do.
TTT decided to work on getting a local production of affordable lime as an alternative to the current imported expensive one.
TTT approached the Ministry of Agriculture and The Permanent Secretary agreed to start the “Lime Task Force” (LTF). LTF had its first meeting in December 2011 and TTT had 2 reps on board.
At the same time TTT approached “Market Development Facility” (MDF) - an AusAid outfit - to look into the matter and find possible partners. The final report from MDF on should be available shortly.
The good news is that all the efforts have led to Standard Concrete beginning to produce local lime just before x-mas or in early 2013. We should be able to buy it for at least half the previous cost.
Living Soil: The Benefits of Compost
Many groups have been making compost and are starting to see the benefits it provides. Compost enriches the soil in many ways, it boosts soil biology by adding soil microbes, a rich source of a range of nutrients which are readily available to plants as well as helping to hold nutrients in the soil ready for plants to use when needed. The following photograph shows plants grown in raintree soil next to plants grown in 1/2 compost, 1/2 raintree soil. The koka tree seedlings were photographed 6 weeks after the small (2 cm high) seedlings were put into the pots. The huge difference in size was a surprise for us all!
The recipe for the compost in this potting mix was much the same as many people are making on their own farms. We hope the results you have with your dalo are a pleasant surprise for you too!
Green - Grass clippings, slashed paragrass, kitchen scraps
Brown - Breadfruit leaves, broken up coconut stump, dried paragrass and seaweed.
A sprinkle of soil, ash and rock P. A bucket of horse manure slurry was also added.
The TTT Committee
- Alan Petersen (Chairman)
- Lilian Ekbom (Secretary and Treasurer)
- Peter Kjaer, Vunivasa
- Hans Stolz, Narova
- Ian Simpson, Vione
- Uliano S, Tutu
- Farasiko R, Tutu
- Eric Narayan, Waimaqera
- Moana Sandys, Delaivuna
- Latai Smith, Delaivuna
- Ratu Seru, Tabakau