Organic at heart

Government officials including the Commissioner Central Setareki Tale (second from right) were present at the launch of the organic farming project in Nasoqo, Naitasiri last week. Picture: MATILDA SIMMONS

Government officials including the Commissioner Central Setareki Tale (second from right) were present at the launch of the organic farming project in Nasoqo, Naitasiri last week. Picture: MATILDA SIMMONS

MENTION the word organic or teitei va yalomatua in the iTaukei language to the people of Nasoqo in the district of Nabobuco in Naitasiri, and you have their undivided attention.

For the villagers it is the one thing they want to re-introduce back to their way of farming.

Located in the heart of Viti Levu, with borders to Ra and Nadarivatu, Nasoqo enjoys some of the most fertile land with yaqona and dalo being their main crops.

It is one of three villages in the heart of Viti Levu that have decided to go back to the basics of traditional organic farming – an ode they want to pay to their ancestors.

“There are many diseases reaching right up to the village here,” describe Nasoqo village headman, Jope Mati. “And we want to go back to the old way of farming, where we can get fresh fruit and vegetables which are grown organically.

“You wouldn’t believe the amount of chemicals and pesticides we used to put on our crops. Now that we know the effects of these chemicals we have put a stop to it.”

The village recently launched their organic agricultural project last week where the youth and women will be focusing solely on their organically grown farms and fish ponds.

Organic agriculture is using farming, harvesting, preservation and storage methods that ensure food is grown, eaten or sold without using chemicals that would harm human health, the soil, other non-farm plants and animal species, waterways or pollute the air.

While it is a small start to a global organic phenomenon, the village of Nasoqo knows they are part of something special. They have plans of going bigger with their organic farming project, which include having an agro market in the area to allow villagers to sell their produce and exchange ideas on organic farming.

Organic agriculture is one of the fastest growing sectors in the global food industry, experiencing double digit growth in most development markets. According to reports, the New Zealand organic market, approximately makes $NZ60 to 70 million ($F88.90 to $F103m) and continue to grow at about 10 per cent annually. Australia’s organic market is even larger, growing from $AUS140 million ($F219m) in 1996 to $A1.72billion ($F2b) in 2014.

According to the Australian Organic Market Report 2017, Australia’s domestic market and exports are expected to reach $A2b ($F3b) by 2018, given the current growth trajectory.

Such figures are only a snapshot of what other countries can benefit from if they export organically certified products to such a burgeoning market

While it is not known exactly how the organic movement started, some believe it was partly driven by the growth in cancer diagnoses and an awareness of food as medicine in the 1970s and 1980s.

Developed markets around the world are beginning to wake up to the damages of fast foods and chemical infested crops and vegetables and have gone to the basics.

Fiji is one of the small island countries that is catching on rapidly to the organic movement, with an ambitious aim to make Fiji the organic capital of the world. While they may not be officially certified as an organic producer, the Nasoqo villagers are doing something in their own way to combat the overuse of chemicals and fertilisers which they used to ignorantly spray on their crops.

“We have big plans for our project,” says youth leader Waqa Navukula.

“We aim to tap into the domestic market for organic produce , it is a long-term plan but one we’re determined to really make use of.”

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