Participants at the AgriTourism Policy Setting Workshop this week, enjoyed a special garden treat with a visit to the Nukunonu Center at Moamoa. Owned by the Tokelau Catholic Church and funded by the Taupulega (Council of Elders) of Nukunonu, it is managed by Mikaele Maiava. The visitors toured the lush organic gardens with its rich variety of local bounty.
Dr Malcolm Hazelman who leads the Informal Gardener’s Group in Samoa (IGG), assisted in the tour. He explained, “Garden and farm enterprises – no matter how small or how large – can be appropriate sites inclusion in agritourism promotions for Samoa. Mikaele is part of the IGG and Nukunonu gardens is already an active site for locals to visit, but can easily be expanded to include visits from tourists to Samoa.”
Mikaele said of the visit, “We are humbled and grateful to have the government acknowledge our hard work this year with this visit. Next year we are going commercial with our vegetable garden and it’s all organic – so we are excited by the potential.”
Mikaele started working on the Nukunonu Garden in December 2015. He’s relatively new to gardening. “After my marriage in 2014, I realised that I could not just depend on my IT expertise to provide for my family. I remembered that my father used to plant and he always told me that I have to use all my talents to succeed in life.” At the time, Mikaele was living in his homeland of Tokelau and gardening was not an easy path to take. “My brothers laughed at me when I said I will build a garden for the family. But they didn’t laugh for long!”
Within 3 months of hard work, Mikaele was providing fresh vegetables for the village elders and at the 6 month mark, his garden had been turned into a national youth project which sought to build keyhole gardens for every family in Tokelau. He is grateful for his membership in the Samoa Informal Gardener’s Group and the mentoring provided by Dr Malcolm Hazelman which has been invaluable in the gardening journey.
His advice for others? “I can only pass on what my father taught me. E fai ile fatu! E fai ile loto! Strive for the best ! Implement something one at a time. You will end up succeeding your dreams when you act not when you sleep.”
Mikaele has brought that same determination and hard work to the development of Nukunonu Garden, supplemented with his trademark spirt and humor! From the bus ride to the garden tour, he gave an enthusiastic and enterprising demonstration of how a garden tour would work for a visiting tour group. Vanya Taulealo of Legends Cafe said, “Mika is a fabulous guide with so much enthusiasm it’s infectious.”
At Nukunonu, Mikaele explained the different kinds of gardening systems and the processes involved. These included keyhole gardens and intercropping systems. He also demonstrated fruit tree production techniques and how to check for fruit quality and the right harvest times.
The Agritourism workshop was organised by the Samoan government via the Samoa Tourism Authority, and the Brussels-based Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Co-operation (C.T.A), in collaboration with the Pacific Islands Private Sector Organisation. In attendance were policy makers, private sectors delegates, government officials, chefs and other representatives from the hospitality sector, civil society, academia and international and regional partners.
At the Workshop opening, the Minister for Tourism Sala Fata Pinati said that the promotion of agri-business and agri-tourism was the key to Samoa’s economic development. But, the key was to weave that development in with Samoa’s traditional ways of gardening which were respectful of the environment. “This has to be done in a way that guarantees sustainability and preservation, of a unique and rich eco-system, promotes our cultures and traditions, and generates economic and social benefits, for the various parties in the chain, particularly, the small-scale farmers and rural communities, who, are often the most vulnerable.”