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Retiree's into SLM

Serenia Vilele
Thursday, February 01, 2018

PRACTISING backyard farming and imparting the knowledge to countless number of students in the various schools he taught made Sakeasi Jikowale continue with his passion when he retired.

Married with three children, the 58-year-old retired schoolteacher acquired a 4.53 hectares under native lease three years ago at Vadrayawasewa Settlement in Ba.

With the assistance from the Ministry of Agriculture through the Land Use Section, he's established a demonstration farm on sustainable land management (SLM). With technical and advisory support, Mr Jikowale has managed to upgrade his agriculture farming scale from subsistence to semi-commercial.

SLM is the use of land resources such as soils, water, animals and plants for the production of goods to meet changing human needs while at the same time protecting the long-term productive potential of these resources and the maintenance of their environmental functions.

The SLM approach provides adequate strategies, approaches and practices for sustainable use and management of land resources for improved livelihoods, local development, national economic growth and social stability.

"I retired in 2014 and I have always been passionate about farming and I have invested a lot in farming as I know I can survive on this investment and I am receiving a good feedback in terms of finance from what is planted," said Mr Jikowale.

His objectives include the promotion of SLM practice through the introduction of soil conservation methods and agroforestry practices, the sustainability of food and income security and to increase farm income to invest in the purchasing of farming implements.

Mr Jikowale's farm now has a nursery, pineapple, sweet potatoes, cassava, sugar cane, plantain, banana, avocado, citrus, yams and assorted vegetables.

"This farm is very hilly. When it rains, soil gets washed away easily and when vertiver grass was introduced and planted on the farm's edge, an improvement has been witnessed. Added to the erosion prevention, the soil is also getting thick," he said.

The impact of SLM has increased over the years, earning him $1200 from 540kg of pineapples in 2015 which increased to 920kg in 2016 earning him an income of $2300 while harvested cassava earned him $2300 for 460kg in 2016.

"An obstacle that I face is the weather. During droughts, I always find it difficult with the crops that I plant that is why I am planting pineapples as they can survive the hot weather with kumala planted during rainy season," he said.

Mr Jikowale has received the ministry's assistance particularly on technical advisory services on better farming skills through capacity building (SLM training and contour farming technology), planting materials such as pineapple suckers, fruit trees with tomatoes and eggplant seeds with the inclusion of irrigation system materials.

"I thank the Ministry of Agriculture on the assistance and advice on how to plant and do SLM because contour planting was unknown to me until the ministry came in and the practice has greatly helped on the farm," he said.

His innovation has allowed other nearby farmers to visit his farm and receive advice on land management and profitable suitable crops to plant and is a role model farmer in the community on SLM and soil conservation.

"My farm was used by the Ministry of Agriculture as the site for the Commemoration of World Day to Combat Land Desertification in 2017," he proudly said.

This event is celebrated all over the world as commitments towards combating land degradation under the United Nations to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). He was also nominated to the UNCCD Secretariat for the best World SLM Farmer of the year in 2016.

Another proud moment for the farmer was during the 2017 Western Agriculture Show when he scooped the SLM farmer of the year award.

"My advice to others is to make use of unutilised land and to go to the Ministry of Agriculture for advice and while venturing into farming," he said.

"A lot can be achieved from the land and for those having farms on hills, do SLM farming.

"There is a lot of potential and opportunities and there are also ways to combat difficulties.

"I have retired and my island is far away and I have never regretted the decision I made in regards to my passion," he smiled.

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

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