How Emali and her garden are growing together

Matainaborosisi settlement in Fiji is a small community with 28 households and a population of over 60 people. Located in the vicinity of Veisari, this settlement primarily engages in subsistence farming for food security, their main crops including dalo (taro) and cassava.

The main crops here have traditionally included dalo (taro) and cassava. But since the Atoll Food Futures program began here in 2022, communities have also ventured out in planting vegetables instead of concentrating only on root crops.

Members of the community have been consistent with planting seedlings in their green house to later transfer into their garden. This has over the years changed the way they eat and has paved a healthy way of living for their family and the community as a whole.

Many families have stopped buying canned food and noodles, and the constant Saturday trips to the market have also stopped as they eat from the food they plant in their garden.

Emali standing next to her garden, which is growing green leafy vegetables

Emali with her home garden

For 48-year-old Emali Rokotuira, tending to her little vegetable garden right in front of her home has also become a new hobby.

Emali is originally from Waiqanake, Navakavu in Rewa and lives in Matainaborosisi a little community just out of Lami.

‘My children are both married and live in their separate homes while I live here with my husband,’ she said.

Emali, who stays home alone most of the time while her husband goes away for work, said she has treated her small vegetable garden as her baby.

‘I give my full attention to my little vegetable garden,’ she said. ‘I talk to them as if they are my own children with the thought that they are living things, and they can hear us.’

“The more attention I give them, the more they grow, and I amazingly harvest huge sized capsicum, chilies, tomatoes and other leafy vegetables.”

Emali added that the AFF project has changed her lifestyle from a more laid back one to now more active and healthier.

‘My garden is right beside my house, and I have easy access to it instead of the long walks out further into the woods which could be very tiring sometimes as I have a problem with my knees,’ she said.

Emali shared how they used to walk a mile and climb mountains to attend to their farms.

‘We did not have it the easy way when it came to planting and getting food for the family as most farms are out in the mountains,’ Emali said.

‘We would dread the long walks sometimes. Even when it rains, we had no choice but to go out and get food. With the Live & Learn Atoll Food Futures project, we no longer take those long walks as we have our farm right in front of our homes.’

The heavy rain that sometimes led to continuous bad weather does not now dampen her spirit as it did back in those days.

‘From relying heavily on my husband to do the farming for us, I can now do it all to myself with no hassle at all,’ she said.

Now growing crops like capsicum, spinach, chilies, eggplant, Chinese cabbage, corn and tomatoes, Emali reminisced on past years where she would spend a lot of money in buying vegetables in the Suva market.

‘I don’t buy my vegetables anymore as I now plant them in front of my home,’ she said.

A capsicum plant beginning to fruit

Emali thanked Live & Learn for their initiative in introducing the Atoll Food Futures program into their community.

The Australian funded project aiming to reach out to squatter settlements was first introduced in 2022 and has flourished since then.

‘I applaud the Live & Learn staff that came in to our community and shared with us the importance of this project,’ she said. ‘To see it fruition into something big is a tremendous change that we had been wanting for so long.’

Emali also thanked the Ministry of Agriculture for working alongside Live & Learn to make it a success.

‘We look forward to more projects like this in the near future,’ she said.

Words by Luisa Qoilevu of Live & Learn Fiji.

Atoll Food Futures is an Australian aid initiative implemented by Live & Learn on behalf of the Australian government.


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