Picture: Sera Tuva in her vanilla nursery.
Fiji’s first demo vanilla nursery is easing life’s hardships for a women’s group in Tailevu.
This is after the Group set a target to buy and install flush toilets in each of their ten-members homes.
El-Shaddai Women’s Group Secretary, Mrs Sera Tuva, 55, explained in i-taukei the vanilla nursery was first trialed with them in 2013 at Naitutu Village, Waidalice, Tailevu.
The Ministry of Agriculture provided the building materials for the greenhouse and 77 vanilla plants to begin their nursery, she said, to which they are truly grateful.
Vanilla takes three years’ to fully mature. The Group calculated they would harvest in 2016.
She said when 2016 came around, they found that it was not a good harvest. They found that vanilla grown outside of the greenhouse, thrived more compared to the ones they grew.
Sera said vanilla was sensitive to climatic changes and believed that was the reason they did not get a good harvest.
She explained that while there was not a consistent market for vanilla for them, buyers who had come to them bought at $500 and $700/a kilo.
However, Sera said despite the not-so-good harvest the Group continued to rake in money from the vanilla vines that were also marketable. The vines are sold at $2 each for a metre-long in length.
In 2018 and 2019, the Group managed to harvest though still not to what they expected, but it was enough to start the ball rolling to achieve their goal, a need – buy and install flush toilets in each of their members’ homes. A basic need that many of us living in the urban and peri-urban areas tend to forget.
She said the Group always met the orders they received whether it was for 5,000 or 10,000 vines and this had a significant impact on the individual families of their members. It was how they managed to successfully pull off the project of installing flush toilets last year.
Each of the women in the Group have their own flower gardens at home, which also assists in improving their livelihoods such as taking care of the education of their children, she said.
The Group plans to move into planting anthuriams. The challenge is finding the time to maintain the upkeep of the current nursery as living in a village means there are communal obligations to be met first.
However, Sera is optimistic that God will lead the way for the Group.
In commemorating International Women’s Day, her advice to women was nothing was impossible if God lead the way. She said women were not only helpers to provide food on the table; today, women could also bring in the money to put food on the table.
She encouraged women to make use of the space outside their homes, similar to what she had done. There is not a space available around her home; these are taken up by her flowers, and her vegetables.
El-Shaddai Women’s Group was assisted under the Ministry of Agriculture’s Women in Agriculture capital programme to assist women entrepreneur to start or expand their cottage industries. Government allocated $150k this current financial year. The programme supports women and women’s group for active participation in Agriculture Development through the; commercializing floriculture for cut flowers and green foliage production and establishment of nurseries; and strengthening traditional art through commercializing Voivoi and Masi production.