Going organic at Nasoqo

The women of Nasoqo Village. Picture: MATILDA SIMMONS

The women of Nasoqo Village. Picture: MATILDA SIMMONS

THE quaint village of Nasoqo in the district of Nabobuco, Naitasiri could fool visitors with its breathtaking mountains looming over close to 50 homes that sit within it. But look closely behind the gentle smiles and friendly nature of its people and you notice the hard lines on their faces. It’s no easy living out in the mountains.

Nasoqo is one of several villages which straddle the area formed by the mountains which ring the administrative centre at Nadarivatu and Ra Province.

According to village headman Jope Mati, when the waters from the stream that runs from Mount Victoria (Fiji’s highest mountain) flows down the hills, they are the first to taste it. The waters are so fresh and when its 6pm in the evening, no one dares to take a dip in the river because it gets icy cold.

There are four churches, one at each corner of the village namely the Assemblies of God, Seventh-day Adventist, Catholic and Wesleyan churches. It’s a village that deeply follows the Christian faith.

Their main source of income comes from yaqona, weaving of mats, and dalo.

It’s a village that prides itself for its progressive thinking. Most of their young girls hold good jobs and are sent to the city to study while the young men prefer to stay behind to plant yaqona, a lucrative crop with market prices that are at an all-time high.

“There are more young men here in the village than women,” said Mr Mati, the village headman.

“There are about 20 bachelors, it’s an issue that is common in rural villages nowadays and we’re hoping if some women may be interested to come and settle here that would be good,” he said with a smile.

“These men have big yaqona plantations, and we follow a strict program where all the men pitch in to work on the farm, fish and look after the organic farm.”

During a village meeting, it was quite an eye-opener to see the women of Nasoqo taking part in discussions concerning their welfare.

The headman’s wife, Nala Nabeqa, was seen petitioning the Commissioner Central Setareki Tale for assistance on their projects.

The village is one of many in which homes were destroyed by Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston in 2016. Like always they pick up the pieces and continue.

“We still face a lot of challenges. As you can see the road you have to take before you reach our village,” said Nala. “It is so far. Before the roads were constructed, the people had to trek long distances through the bush.

“Even today, when we go to our farms we have to walk quite a distance. We hope that our organic farming project will reap the rewards of hard work put into it,” she said.

The launch of the organic agriculture is in line with the work of SEEP (Social Empowerment and Education Program) an NGO which looks into the sustainable use of resources and educating rural communities on the effects of globalisation.

“This is also in line with our concept for organic slow food and challenges against those using chemicals and pesticides locally,” said the deputy director of SEEP, Leo Nainoka.

“The Global Slow Food is working hard to remove GMOs, chemicals and pesticides all over the world.

“For me as a member of the Global Slow Food, it is important that we try our best to put back that human face that has been missing in our food production.

“For us at SEEP, this is a beginning of our journey in full organic agriculture and allowing our people good quality healthy food.At the moment we are working closely with Department of Nutrition to emphasise the importance of good nutrition for our communities,” he said.

More projects are earmarked for other villages in the area.