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Mataqali goes organic

Serenia Vilele
Friday, August 11, 2017

IN today's world, it is often the case that people will invest primarily for their own benefit. However, that cannot be said for Samu Niusama at Nalawa in Ra Province who has left the comforts of friends and familiar surroundings to help work his mataqali land to establish be the first organic ginger farm in Ra.

At Nubumakita Village in Nalawa, there are four mataqali; Nawaka, Nakorose, Navinaka and Nawainitu. Samu is a member of the Mataqali Nawaka.

"The Ministry of Agriculture approached us and wanted someone to start organic ginger farming in Nubumakita and that was when I volunteered to help my mataqali," he said. "When I started in 2016, ginger was nothing new to me as I grew up with ginger and I knew my way around it, how things should be done."

On some ginger farms, the yield can be 1-2kg from a plant factoring in geographical location of the farm and how the land is used. From an organic ginger farm, it can be 2-3kg per plant.

The long-term plan of the mataqali organic ginger project is to support the education and other developments of Samu's younger relatives. It mattered so much to him resulting in the plam to take the initiative to another level.

The Ministry of Agriculture also took the farmers to Kaiming Agriculture Investment Ltd in Navua to enlighten them on all aspects of organic ginger farming.

"It broadened our ginger planting skills and how to go about organic ginger farming and I also received 12 tonnes of organic ginger from Kaiming as planting material," said Samu.

With the help of mataqali members, they managed to clear the land and planted 16 blocks on 1.4 acres using the simple farming method of furrowing using ropes and hoes.

However successful they have become establishing the first organic farm, the devastation last December caused by flooded access roads and bridges up to the interior dragged the mataqali development a mile back. It may have only put their plan a mile back but the flooding did not discourage Samu from continuing with what he had started.

"It is fortunate that ginger is a six-month commodity and from what we have now, after harvesting in August we are planning to replant the whole 16 blocks again and fill up other vacant plots," he proudly said.

"It has a lot of benefits. First, organic ginger does not require fertiliser and the stress of purchasing fertiliser and the time used that would have been used to apply it to the crop can be used doing other farm activities," he said.

"Secondly, it is resilient to wild pigs which cause of major crop damage around here. They uproot almost everything and ginger is the only commodity that they do not touch."

Regular farm visits enable early detection of root knot and tuber scale in ginger plants.

"Before it reaches other ginger plants, it is essential that diseased ones are removed before they damage the remaining ones."

Now that they are involved in organic ginger, Samu has plans for the mataqali to go organic with other vegetables and other crops.

Agriculture assistant (Nalawa) Paula Makubuna said organic farming was just being introduced into the province and farmers had responded positively.

"Samu and a few other farmers having experienced ginger planting in Waibau are well versed with ginger planting and other techniques."

Mr Makubuna said three other villages had been identified to start planting organic ginger.

"Planting material will be brought from the Mataqali Nawaka seed-bed and distributed to keen farmers in the identified areas and planting will start this September," he said.

* Serenia Vilele is an employee of the Ministry of Agriculture.

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