Island News

Bonding with Mother Earth

By KUINI WAQASAVOU Ministry of Primary Industries Rich in its age-old traditions and culture, Rotumans around the globe share a common bond. That is, their love and passion for their
17 Jun 2012 12:58

Ministry of Primary Industries

Pio Samuela at the Agriculture Show in Ahau, Rotuma during the Rotuma Day celebrations.

Rich in its age-old traditions and culture, Rotumans around the globe share a common bond. That is, their love and passion for their mother land.
At the celebration of Rotuma’s independence, the entire island community came together to mark their freedom as an island nation.
With feasting and merry-making, the islanders converged at the Ahau Pavillion to celebrate their coming of age with the Fijian Government and non-government officials.
Entertainment was the order of the day to say the least, but the highlight of the celebrations would have to be the agriculture show. At the show, the local farmers had the opportunity to showcase their harvest of yams, kumala, dalo, fruits and vegetables, and handicrafts.
One farmer scooped the ‘Farmer of the Year’ award.
With excitement and triumph, he boldly walked up to the pavilion to receive his prize from the chief guest and Minister for Primary Industries, Joketani Cokanasiga.
With his roots firmly embedded in the garden island of Taveuni, Pio Samuela, 58, is now living the simple life of a farmer with his maternal family links on the island paradise of Rotuma.
At the age of six, Pio, his older siblings and his mother  left Taveuni and made their long journey to Rotuma.
“I still remember vividly the day that we left,” Pio said. “After we parted ways with our father, we have never looked back.”
The family moved to Juju Village and started rebuilding their lives and connecting with their family members.
“It was a hard time for mum and us but as we grew up, we managed to learn all the tricks and trade of island living and have been improving ever since.”
From his teens to adulthood, Pio was heavily engaged with their family farm. Even though he started his own family, he still had a great sense of pride when it came to working on the farm.
The clever farmer has been planting root crops, vegetables, fruit trees and he also raises pigs.
“I have been working closely with officials of the Department of Agriculture and they are very particular about the finer details of farming.”
From land preparation to harvesting, Pio makes sure that he plays his cards right so that there is consistency in the quality of his produce.
“I also look after my pigs well and they are sold within the island especially during social gatherings.
“Rotuma is just a small island so crops, vegetables and woven mats are sold within the island or sometimes to our families living in Fiji or abroad.”
Pio says that with the abundance of natural resources, Rotumans have been living on their own paradise.
“We have nothing to worry about as we have food sourced from land the sea.
“The onus is on each and every one of us to play our roles well and see that our resources are used sufficiently and sustainably.”
Agriculture assistant (Rotuma) Akariva Naqo said food security was not an issue on the island because there was an abundance of food and marine resources for its inhabitants.
“We have been conducting trainings and awareness programmes for the islanders to ensure that they plant more food and also prepare them for the market that will be opening up soon in Tuvalu,” Naqo said.
“Farmers on the island are aware of the important roles that they need to play as well to ensure that their future generations will continue to enjoy the natural resources and food that they still enjoy today.”
So throughout the years, Pio believes he has played his role well and hopes that more Rotumans will follow suit.
“Farming is for everyone and even if we have a small piece of land in urban areas, we should plant vegetables because this ensures food security. We don’t have to run to the market every time we need to eat vegetables,” Pio said laughing.
With his 10 children and 14 grandchildren living in parts of Australia, Canada and Fiji, Pio says that he is now living life on the slow lane and just enjoying the time he spends with his wife.
He labours at the farm for a solid two hours in the morning, takes a breather and works up another two hours in the afternoon.
“I love every minute that I spend on the farm because I get to appreciate nature and enjoy the fruits of my hard labour.”
One thing that Pio would love to see is the return of unemployed youths to the island.
“I hope that by winning the award, more youths will realise the potential that the island has and do not have to travel far and wide for employment opportunities.
“Not everyone can be a doctor, teacher or soldier because there is a need for more farmers as well.
“If there were no farmers, there would be no markets and then there would be no fresh fruits, vegetables and root crops for our daily diet.”
Pio hopes that as time goes by, more Rotuman youths will return to the island and take up farming.

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