Introducing Tei Tei Taveuni
Tei Tei Taveuni is a non-profit NGO formed by a group of farmers with an interest in sustainable farming, soil regeneration, food security, reforestation, conservation and environmental awareness.
Tei Tei Taveuni was formed by a group of farmers as a result of a seminar in June 2009 to discuss soil depletion and deforestation on Taveuni, organized by the Ministry of Agriculture and sponsored by SPC.
Problems highlighted in the seminar were:
- Taveuni having the highest rate of deforestation in Fiji.
- Unsustainable use of land and consequently declining soil fertility.
- Problems with water catchment management for drinking water.
These problems directly affect taro production of which Taveuni produces the bulk of Fiji’s export. Intensive commercial dalo farming is also the reason for this high rate of deforestation.
Aims of Tei Tei Taveuni
Tei Tei Taveuni intends to address these problems by:
- Generating information to be passed on to members and farmers
- Organizing educational courses for farmers
- Implementing crop trials
- Empowering farmers to make informed decisions with regard to planning their farms and choice of fertilizers,weedicides etc
- Work closely with farmers to ensure that more sustainable farming practices are implemented
We aim to prove that there are sustainable methods that are viable.
In order to promote more sustainable farming practices, Tei Tei Taveuni applied to the UNDP for a grant under the GEF Program to facilitate a series of soil schools for our farmers.
Whilst waiting for approval of this grant we teamed up with Mr Mike Smith of Organic Matters Foundation to run soil schools for farmers on Taveuni. The schools were conducted in two sessions, a basic course and an Advanced Course, each course being for a duration of two days.
The first Soil School was held at Mua Research Station and was attended by 44 farmers.
The Soil School introduced the concept of Biological Farming Practices. Biological Farming is understanding that Nature is perfect and we as farmers will have to work with Nature.
The importance of soil biology to agricultural production and how to manage your soil by using alternative inputs. The important skill of carrying out and interpreting soil tests and then effectively planning steps into a new way of farming were all taught in a practical hands–on method.
To ensure the lessons learned from Soil Schools were not lost, Tei Tei Taveuni applied for an Australian Volunteer to mentor farmers that had completed Soil School and to further the knowledge of farmers in regards to sustainable farming practice.
In November 2011, Geoff Dean, his wife Jo and their two sons Jack and Laurie arrived on Taveuni.
Geoff and his family quickly fitted into life on Taveuni. Geoff immediately began organizing small localized Farmers Groups around the island. Groups consist of at least 5 farmers with at least one having been through soil school. Besides mentoring farmers and promoting methods of sustainable farming, Geoff has been tasked to produce some manuals for sustainable dalo farming, to help farmers monitor their dalo crop as it grows and will help them produce healthy, profitable crops.
Monthly meetings are being held with farmer groups to ensure that knowledge is shared and improvement in farming practices will lead to improved soil fertility.
Geoff can be contact at 904 7403.
Lime - Why TTT is Pushing For Local Lime Production
The Soil Schools taught us that the foundation of soil health relies on Calcium and Phosphorus, and via the soil tests we found both of them were in short supply on Taveuni.
The cost of imported lime became a problem and consequently TTT decided to work towards affordable local lime production. This effort resulted in the setting up of a Lime Task force in October 2011, with assistance from MPI to determine the need for lime and to establish a local source for lime production. TTT also got AusAid’s Market Development Facility to look into the same issue and they have just called for tenders for a study of local lime production/market needs in Fiji.
There are good sources of lime in Fiji which will keep the price down, create local jobs and support long term food security. The AusAid funded Soil Health project also showed benefits to dalo production by adding lime and growing mucuna beans before planting dalo. Lime has now been made available by MPI to Taveuni Farmers and each TTT farm group is able to have 1 bag of lime to grow dalo. Hardware shops are also stocking lime, we have even heard that Eric is now known as "The Lime Man" in Waimaqera!
Farmers Conference at Wairiki - 20th September, 2012
On the 20th of September TTT will be hosting a conference for all the farmers in the 40 farmer groups.
The Conference is about sharing ideas, to be inspired and also to find out from you all what you would like to see happening in the future for farming on Taveuni. It is not an easy job to be a farmer and there are many questions about the soil and soil life, the plant and the fertilizer, the health of the plant and the water, which require answers and our attention each day. It is complicated and we need to educate ourselves to make the right choices. It is very important for us to make the right choices. It is very important for us to talk to other farmers to share our ideas and good results.
In that way we can all move forward in our farming practice and prosper, and at the same time take good care of our soil. The conference will be held at Wairiki Hall on the 20th of September. Free buses will pick up and bring back the participants. One bus will leave from Lavena at 6.30am and one bus will leave from Navakawau at 7.00 am on the morning of the 20th. Farm groups from Delaivuna will be provided with transport .
SEE YOU THERE !
Biochar For Better Soil Health
Biochar is basically charcoal crushed and added to the soil to improve soil conditions. Biochar helps to improve yields by:
- Moderating soil acidity
- Increase the soils water holding capacity
- Increase CEC (the soils capacity to hold onto nutrients)
- Reduce nitrogen leaching
- Acts as a reef for soil biology.
TTT wants to give farmers the option of producing their own biochar for their soil improvement and has got the first 3 units into Taveuni to produce charcoal. The units are basically oversized 200 litre drums with an inner oxygen deprived chamber and a chimney.
These can be easily transported and will be available for farmer use. One bigger second hand unit which was standing at the Navua ginger factory has been brought to Taveuni. All units are being fired up at Vunivasa to get some first hand experience.
TTT is also experimenting with a cooking stove which can be sealed off after cooking and turn the remaining firewood in the stove into biochar. It is on trial with Alan at Matei
Chippers For Compost And Mulch
To make it possible to turn waste wood into compost and biochar, AusAid funded 7 chippers to be used by farm groups. The first 3 have arrived, the 4th one will be here in a few weeks, and the remaining 3 in late October.
They will be distributed to farm groups in 7 areas to minimize the need of transporting waste wood and to secure proper maintenance and use of the chippers.
The first one has been tried out at Vunivasa and it is working beautifully—1m3 of chips per half hour if you are properly prepared.
The chips can be used for compost for the farm and garden and mulch in yagona etc. The mulch helps to conserve moisture as well as food for soil microbes, especially if you add a little nitrogen.
It can make a big difference in maintenance of soil health and production costs, and will be an important tool in moving towards more locally produced inputs.
There will be a chipper at Matei with Hans as the operator, one to Delaivuna with Moana and Latai being responsible for its safe use.
The chippers will be delivered by Hans and Peter together with the necessary safety equipment and a basic instruction course will take place at the same time. Ian will buy the necessary safety equipment.
The next chipper will be based at Tutu for farm groups in the central part of the Island. Each will be available for hire with an operator to train people on how to use them safely.
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