Training develops a legacy in seed saving and vegetable growing

Tuimuni and her husaband, Felise Fetu’u in their vegetable garden.

On the island of ‘Eua, farming is a well-known source of income for many families. Adding further skills and knowledge to existing farming practices will contribute to a more prosperous farming community throughout the island and generate extra income for families.

“If there was anything significant, I have learned from seed saving training, it would be to value food security through work to grow, save, protect, store, and share seeds for both financial and environmental restoration purposes,” said Tuimuni Fetu’u.

Tuimuni, a member of the Kolomaile Women Development Association, was one of 58 women across ‘Eua island who completed a two-day seed saving training on 11-12 June 2020.

“After the training, I realised that growing and selling vegetables is just the tip of the iceberg. There is more to just growing and selling. I can also save, protect and share vegetable seeds and any other usable seeds,” she explained.

Tuimuni and her husband, Felise Fetu’u, work together to grow vegetables and various food crops and sell them to meet their financial needs.

Felise explained, “We moved back here to ‘Eua from New Zealand more than a decade ago for family reasons. We were supposed to go back to New Zealand a month after we arrived, but we loved and enjoyed the harmony we witnessed in the community, so we decided to stay and live here in Kolomaile.”

According to Felise, he and other men in the village enjoy helping their Women’s Association’s activities, be it weaving, farming, gardening, fishing or anything else. They love lending a hand and contributing to whatever the women are trying to achieve as it does not only benefit individual families but generally the broader community.

“My husband is not a member of our women’s group, but he followed me around wherever I went during our seed saving training and wanted to learn what I was gaining from it.”

“After the training, I realised as a grower that most people, including myself, were heavily dependent on imported seeds. Very few had their own seeds,” said Tuimuni.

Four months after the seed saving training, Tuimuni and her husband managed to grow and sell a range of different seeds, giving their neighbors access to affordable, well-adapted seeds – and giving themselves a new source of revenue.

“Since we specialize in growing and selling vegetables, I had begun saving various seeds; tomatoes, cucumber, kidney beans, cabbage, lettuce, watermelon and capsicum,” said Tuimuni.

A photo of Tuimuni and some of Kolomaile’s community members building a chicken roost which is one of the projects funded and facilitated by Tonga Skills.

On 22-23 October 2020, Tuimuni also participated in vegetable growing training facilitated by Tonga Skills in collaboration with Lesieli ‘Amone, a Senior Officer at the ‘Eua office of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forest.

Tuimuni was very happy to hear that a training on vegetable growing was going to be delivered in their community knowing that it would greatly support her family’s source of income.

“Even though my husband and I have been growing vegetables for quite some time now, we still learned new strategies and skills from the training that will undoubtedly increase our farming produce,” said Tuimuni.

She cited, as an example, learning how to produce natural soil fertiliser, saying that she had previously had no knowledge of this. Her husband was also excited to learn this skill.

“I just cannot find the right words to describe the joy in our hearts having learned skills which we are certain will have a positive impact on our family. We were originally focused on gaining skills that would help us financially but then we also got to learn the importance of what we do in combating non-communicable diseases through encouraging people to consume organic vegetables,” Tuimuni explained.

“The greatest sense of satisfaction we get is from watching our young grandchildren picking organically-grown food from our garden. We feel no apprehension seeing our grandchildren sitting among the crops because we know they’re healthy, safe, purely organic, no chemical fertilisers,” Felise explained.

The couple described all the skills trainings facilitated by Tonga Skills in their community as extremely helpful saying that they not only supported individuals to develop income generating activities but also brought community members closer together.

Tonga Skills is an initiative of the Australian Government which works closely with the Ministry of Education and Training and the Tonga National Qualification and Accreditation Board to facilitate inclusive skills training to communities especially in rural areas and outer islands to promote greater economic growth in Tonga.

The harmonic community of Kolomaile on ‘Eua island.