Picture: Ms Kalesi Toga Volatabu sharing the story of Reservoir Road community residents utilising the Home Gardening programme at her small garden.
Seeing the residents of Reservoir Road in Suva nurturing the small bits of land around their homes was a welcome sight for Ms. Kalesi Toga Volatabu.
After the distribution of Home Gardening packages to families in Reservoir Road by the Ministry of Agriculture, it reignited a burning sensation in these households to grow for their own consumption.
Ms. Volatabu likens it to a return to the roots.
“The feedback has been quite amazing, it is quite, wow!”
“Because it is a great initiative for them because it’s literally the first time, as I said, they are so far away from their villages where they live off the land, (whereas) here, they’re in the city areas and this has kind of just reminded and taken them back, what it’s like to be back in the days where you have to plant for your own food,” she said.
“For them it was good, they got to learn how to get up again, how to nurture the land, how to use those seeds and actually have a feel of what it looks like at the end of it when you actually cook the food.
Ms. Volatabu helped to distribute the seeds among the families in her community and she has been receiving a lot of positive reviews and requests for more seeds, acting as an unofficial liaison for the Ministry within her community, a role she has gladly shouldered.
“From the parents to the young children, I still get questions from the parents, they still want more, can I get some more, can we get some more seeds?” she shares.
“When you go to the markets, you see the end result of what the vegetable looks like but to see what the actual seed looks like in the beginning, it was a huge learning curve for all who were involved here at Reservoir Road.
From the outset, it was evident to Kalesi that the community was in need of such an initiative; “It is awesome because in hindsight where we’re at right now, with COVID-19, the climate where we’re at, there’s so much unemployment, there’s uncertainty,” she said.
“And what we’ve found in our community is how the young people and the parents, it’s the one thing that got them together, literally, to look at the land and since we were so far away from the rural areas, the villages because we live in the urban areas, the little plots of land that we have it was great that we were able to get those seedlings to teach even our young children what it’s like planting your own food and that was quite amazing to see the whole community coming together,” explained Ms. Volatabu.
“We ran out of seeds which was quite amazing because it was the one thing the whole community wanted to do together.
The enthusiasm showed by the residents of Reservoir Road in the Home Gardening initiative is uplifting for Ms. Volatabu, who is also a social worker and founder and Chief Executive of Volatabu Group, which is a non-governmental organization that advocates and creates awareness on drugs and other pressing issues in Fiji.
She has also called on fellow Fijians to utilise any available land beside their houses to grow their own vegetables.
“The greatest advice I can give is if you have a little plot of land, use it. If you don’t have land, use buckets and whatnot just to grow your own vegetables and food.
“The reward that it gives is just amazing, it’s also a kind of healing process as well because sometimes you’re too busy to go and touch the earth, touch the soil and actually plant something and see it grow from a seedling to a plant, it’s a huge achievement on your own and it’s something you can do on your own without anyone else telling you otherwise.