Another Pointless Strategy
Students of Avele College, Samoa proudly displaying their produce at the Pacific Week of Agriculture 2019 Samoa IMAGE: Jean Pierre Niptik
In a move to encourage youth participation in agriculture, the Pacific Youth in Agriculture Strategy was developed after a call made by Pacific Ministers of Agriculture in 2008.
The publication Lessons in Non-Formal Adult Education for Self-Employed in Agriculture by Tutu Rural Training Centre (TRTC) says the strategy showed no understanding of the cultural context in the areas of financial barriers, the influence of the church and the support from parents and family.
“Since the majority of rural youths dwell in the traditional villages and live among the impoverished in society it is understandable that access to credit from development and financial banks is limited,” the publication states.
“The Youth in Agriculture Strategy offers little in the way of practical solutions to the seemingly intractable constraint of financing the involvement of youth in commercial agriculture.”
“TRTC presents a practical solution to the problem which is not based on credit, and most Tutu graduates have not found it necessary to seek loans from banks or micro finance,” the publication states.
The Young Farmers Course at TRTC has been hailed by many as a raging success for its innovative approach to technical education.
“The selection criteria is intensive and requires written evidence that the village land is available for unimpeded use in addition to owning a plantation of their own,” said TRTC’s Serenia Madigibuli.
“Prior to entering the Young Farmers Course, the applicant is required to demonstrate their willingness to use this land by having planted 1000 Yaqona (Kava) plants or its equivalent.”
The three year course which helps trainees develop a five year plan also features a compulsory saving system.
“In their time studying at Tutu, students are earning money from the sales of their produce which goes directly to a savings account for future investments in building a house and the development of a home farm,” she said.
While the church plays a positive influence in the lives of many Pacific Islanders, the publication Lessons in Non-Formal Adult Education for Self-Employed in Agriculture by TRTC has called it destructive.
“The Agriculture in Youth Strategy sees the church as having a lead role in the decision making process of youth in the village but the influence of the church can be quite negative.”
“In Fiji it has encompassed the very essence of traditional Fijian way of life, the week revolves around church activities,” the publication states.
“Village folk are obliged to respond to these ideologies and, in the process, are distracted from matters concerning youth participation in agricultural enterprises.”
“The TRTC model is structured around time management and it gives students a significant edge over other villagers.”
Serenia Madigibuli says the relationship between TRTC and the people of the Cakaudrove province is paramount to their success and ensures the ongoing support from the parents and family members of its students.
“Tutu makes the effort to gain parental and community support which begins at the application stage of potential students.”
“This has been supplemented by a parent’s course of one week per year at the Centre,” she said.
“Parents see firsthand what their sons are learning and doing at Tutu.”
“It also provides an opportunity to discuss problems back in the village that already exist, or are likely to arise, in operating the trainees farm back in the village,” she said
The TRTC publication Lessons in Non-Formal Adult Education for Self-Employed in Agriculture believes the Pacific Youth in Agriculture Strategy developed by the Pacific Agriculture & Forestry Policy Network and the Pacific Community, failed many young Pacific Island farmers because it lacked the understanding of cultural and social factors involved in the addressed areas.