Leader goes natural

WAQA Navukula strikes one as a natural leader in his village of Nasoqo in the district of Nabobuco in Naitasiri. Very noticeable is his intense gaze as he speaks eloquently about his work in the village.

Waqa is a youth leader involved in a farming project that aims to go all organic.

“Organic farming or teitei va yalomatua was something that was practised by our ancestors for many generations but is something that is not followed today,” said Waqa.

“Today we just rely on fast-tracking agriculture, using sprays and chemicals to grow our vegetables and crops and it has proved detrimental to us. Just take a look at the amount of diseases that now beset our people. There are so many cases of cancer and non-communicable diseases.”

Nasoqo lies between some mountains with Ra Province on one side and Nadarivatu on the other side with Nadarivatu on the other side of some more mountains. The village is located so high up the mountains that you could almost be lulled by the chirps of birds in the nearby forest and sound of the river that runs through the mountains.

The youth group had just harvested their organically grown capsicum, tomatoes, lettuces and root crops inlduing dalo and yaqona. These crops were then sold to neighbouring villages in the mountain area or taken straight to the city.

“The transport to the nearest market is Tavua,” says Waqa. “It’s about $25 one way by carrier.

“We usually take the yaqona and dalo as you get more money from it. Our long-term goal is to have a sustainable market available so we can supply crops and vegetables all year round like for example hotels and so on. That is one of the plans because organic grown products are very lucrative and it’s the popular choice from what I’ve heard,” he said with a smile.

The organic agriculture project is part of SEEP’s (Social Empowerment & Education Program) work to encourage more rural Fijians to produce organically grown gardens, farms and sea resources.

According to the organisation’s deputy director Leo Nainoka, they have been working with several rural communities on the project.

“SEEPs core work is to bring these communities into a safe space where they are able to discuss the effects of globalisation in their communities and together to try and seek possible solutions to problems like the high rate of non-communicable diseases, extreme obesity in young children, which can be linked to several unhealthy behaviours and practices,” he said.

“We visit communities two to three times a year to provide training and the catering involves the communities locally-grown produce such as vegetables, root crops and fruits. This encourages the communities to continue to grow the locally grown produce, but also highlights the importance of the nutritional values of the local foods.”

With the blessings of the Turaga na Tui Nabobuco, Ratu Joseva Railima, the district of Nabobuco officially became organically focused after it’s launch on Wednesday this week.

“There’s a long way to go and I want our youth group to be focused on the task at hand,” said Waqa.

“We are going back to our traditional ways of farming. No more chemicals, no more pesticides.”

According to national NCD adviser, Dr Isimeli Tukana, three new cases of cancer is known every day with other illnesses like heart attack, and diabetes in Fiji.

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