Navuso Agricultural School head Malakai Tuikadavu. Picture: SHALVEEN CHAND
BIG changes are planned at the Navuso Agricultural School as principal Malakai Tuikadavu is looking to enrol girls at the school, which since its inception has always been for boys.
Situated in Naitasiri, the school run by the Methodist Church in Fiji first opened its doors in the 1920s. As time is evolving so are the teaching methods and a newer approach is being taken.
The man behind the change, Mr Tuikadavu, said NAS was a way of kick-starting the lives of young men and women who chose to farm their land.
"It is something like a prerequisite. When you are joining the school, a student must also be able to go back and use that skill. So we encourage young men especially from village settings to secure their land first," he said.
"We also open bank accounts for each of the students and whatever they earn while here is deposited into their accounts.
"We have had some students who graduated with $10,000 to $15,000 in their accounts.
"These students, these young farmers who have access to land, start off on their own. I know of former students, who upon their return to their village, started their farms and had capital to pay for labourers.
"For some years now we have been slowly taking the steps towards teaching sustainable farming practices. We are lucky that the United Nations Development Program is assisting us with Soil School.
"This program, run by Mike Smith from the Organic Matters Foundation, teaches students how to properly utilise soil and ensure that the soil is good enough for future use. We are trying to move away from the use of chemicals.
"We are what we eat. And we do not want a nation being fed on foods which are chemically enhanced. We also have to ensure that the land which we are using is able to retain its fertility through better and sustainable farming techniques."
NAS sits on 1197 hectares of land. This land is being utilised by the school to grow a variety of crops, farm fish, ducks, chicken and other livestock.
The school is able to market its produce to a large number of buyers.
"In our Soil School program we had 15 girls join us from the Fiji National University's School of Agriculture," he said.
"And after seeing that our women have the capability to become successful farmers and farm managers, we want to open our doors to allow young women into the school. Of course, this is a gradual process but we hope to start doing this by the end of the year.
"And introducing sustainable practices at this level would help the future. Already there are discussions in regards to food security.
"As a nation, as farmers, it is our responsibility to ensure that not only this generation but the future generations are able to reap the benefits of the land."
Babasiga (pronounced bambasinga) is the dry land of Macuata in northern Fiji - our place in the sun in Fiji. Peceli is from Fiji from the village is Vatuadova and the beach is Nukutatava. Peceli Ratawa passed away on 27th December 2015 so this is Wendy's blog now. Wendy is an Australian and today live in Geelong, Australia.