The world was a little dimmer and perhaps a little less greener when well known horticulturalist and Garden master, Seumanutafa Dr. Malcom Hazelman passed away.
When he was called home early January, his passing left behind a legacy and a garden for others to aspire to, for many years to come.
Seumanutafa served as an Educator at the University of the South Pacific and in roles such at the Secretariat of the Pacific community and the Food and Agriculture Organization (F.A.O.).
In his lifetime, his curriculum vitae read like a road map of someone who had a boundless desire to share his knowledge, expertise and skills till the very last drop in any capacity and we are all the healthier because of it.
During his retirement years, Seumanutafa wanted to give back to the community using his gift. He channeled that desire to share his love and knowledge of the Science and art of growing plants by founding a collective in a much more casual setting that suited his style more
Three years ago, he founded the Informal Gardeners Group, (I.G.G.) a name that perhaps captures his practical “no nonsense” kind of attitude but Seumanutafa also knew how to have fun and his group reflected it with people from all walks of life coming together under the umbrella of I.G.G.
They shared a passion for gardening, agriculture and came together for some of the most interesting outings and visiting – many of which he co-ordinated using his many connections from his network to give his members a comprehensive learning experience.
With a group following of 466 members on Facebook, I.G.G. was also an informal classroom and Malcolm their guru and teacher. Sharing his sknowledge and his connections in the agriculture sector and encouraging others to share their successes and failures in the garden with a group.
A member of I.G.G, Louise Main, spoke to the Samoa Observer on behalf of their collective and says that Seumanutafa was a big believer in engaging the community at a grass roots level and utilizing his many connections in the field
“Malcolm was passionate about bringing people together to share their knowledge, plant cuttings and seeds as well as any problems that they are experiencing with their plants or gardens,” she said.
“Being very social, Malcolm was always available 24/7 on Facebook to trouble shoot or just chat about our gardens. He connected us via organized farm and garden visits, pointed those that needed help in funding and further training in the right direction.”
“He encouraged us to share both our successes and failures on our Facebook page so that others can learn from it. If our gardens have pest or diseases Malcolm will always offer many solutions and reminded us that 'there are many ways to skin a cat'."
In the three years, the group has become even bolder and creative, empowered by their teacher’s applied wisdom showing people that they can be self-sustainable by growing their own fruit and vegetable gardens to nourish and heal themselves and their families.
“Malcolm used to reaffirm with a lot of little quotes and one of his most used would have been 'Sharing is caring'. This is the vibe of our I.G.G. with its motto being 'Just dIGGit'," said Louise.
“Malcolm promoted food security and encouraged us to develop our back yard gardens and to rely more on these for our family needs. ‘When you grow your own you know exactly what you are feeding your families. Learn and adapt' you would hear him say.”
It seemed there was no plant species or plant growing technology that was unheard of to Seumanutafa and under his guidance, the members of I.G.G. began to see the fruits of their labours which was a most satisfying feeling for many.
“Some of us have excelled in our backyard gardens and have resulted in the selling off of our excess produce, some have returned to farming full time and others have opened their gardens to tour groups. We feel that his nurturing and encouragement has facilitated this."
“He introduced us to new plants, and he had an interest in promoting plants with high nutritional values that are easily grown here like the Moringa (tamaligiaiga) Amaranth and togotogo (Asiatic pennywort).”
Those who knew Seumanutafa will tell you he was always willing to lend a hand and when our neighbours in Tokelau needed some of his expertise on how to grow a garden in porous sandy soil, he travelled to Tokelau with Mikaele Maiava to demonstrate and build keyhole gardens for the youth.
Seumanutafa and his legion of I.G.G. members also helped set up key hold gardens at Mapuifagalele Rest home, the Carmelites, Fiamalamalama School, Tokelau project at Aleisa and assisted may others with training sessions on key hole gardens.”
Seumanutafa was so thorough and comprehensive with his teaching that while his loss leaves many saddened, he left behind a huge legacy with a simple road map to follow in his footsteps.
“I.G.G. has lost a charismatic leader, our Guru, teacher, mentor and friend. He leaves a huge void in our group but he has shared so much of himself that we feel that we know the direction in which to move our group forward but more importantly the essence of his dream and we will remain true to that."
“Although we are deeply saddened by his passing, we have spent a lot of quality time with him, have learnt a lot in 3 years so that we are not left floundering. A man of action, I can just visualise Malcolm telling us to 'Just do it, Walk the talk, lets dIGGit'."
While the garden master has moved on to greener pastures, there is no doubt that Malcolm also left behind, the knowledge and the method for others to grow their own green pastures here on earth.
“We are richer as a group for having known Malcolm. He was inspirational, caring, knowledgeable and his easy and convenient mode of communication makes his messages very memorable. He has left us with a wonderful legacy that we are proud to carry on.”
“Planning is already in motion for the calendar of events for 2018 and this will be posted in our IGG page very soon.”
If you want to join the Informal Gardeners Group, please contact Nynette Sass or Mikaele Maiava on Facebook.