Saleapaga take future into their own hands

Saleapaga village will be growing its own organic vegetables in keyhole gardens from now on.

The village Assembly of God (A.O.G) congregation’s youth successfully applied for a $118,118 grant from the United Nations Development Program (U.N.D.P) to improve life in the hilltops of their district.

GREENSEI, or Get Ready to Empower and Enable the New Sustaining Environment Initiatives, as the project is called, includes building 30 keyhole gardens and investing in 110 wheelie rubbish bins.

The goal is to equip Saleapaga’s 88 households with better waste management, and a good source of fresh vegetables.

“It was really hard to get vegetables up here,” said the Project Secretary, Lauvao Isara Iose.

“You need to go three or four kilometres to the nearby village to buy those vegetables.”

Saleapaga was relocated to the hills after the 2009 Tsunami, which devastated the village and its neighbours. So on the tenth anniversary of the event, the A.O.G wanted to initiate something for the youth to run for the village.

According to the A.O.G project application, 65 per cent of the village grow taro, banana and other starchy foods. But there are hardly any green vegetables, Lauvao said, and that is impacting their health.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries have been training the village youth in keyhole gardening: raised garden with a keyhole-shaped opening on one side, easy access for uncooked vegetable scraps, greywater, and manure into a composting basket that sits in the centre of the bed.

About 50-60 youth have been building the keyhole gardens among the households so there is enough to go around, and are helping families maintain their gardens.

A central nursery has been built already to cultivate seedlings for distribution. 

And the waste management project of supplying each household with a rubbish bin should ensure Saleapaga stays green, and the soil rich and healthy.

The new rubbish bins are covered and deep, and should avoid rubbish spilling into the ground. The village did not have enough rubbish shelves, and so the limited ones get full and spill trash.

Lauvao and Reverend Kuresa Samuelu explained the project will not only feed and clean the village, but give unemployed youth purpose and direction in their community.

“Some of the youth, not only in our church, they finish from school and do nothing,” Mr. Samuelu said.

“Some didn’t get a job and they just muck around and that is why we are talking about their future.

“Some rely on their parents for their needs, and that is the cry of our hearts – their parents look after them from when they are young up to age 18, 19, 20, and they still look like babies.”

The weather has been unpredictable and the keyhole gardens have not borne fruit yet, but Lauvao hopes to see their first harvest next month.

The grant is from the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Program (G.E.F-S.G.P) a programme especially designed at giving manageable funds of no more than US$50,000 to communities working on with the environment. 

G.E.F-S.G.P Sub Regional Coordinator Lilomaiava Filifilia Iosefa was present to help the village launch the project, which will run for two years.

“The fact that this was submitted by the youth of the village, and that it relates to the environment and especially organic farming for a healthy diet, that is exciting to me.

“Their proposal was really well written, looking at how they can keep the environment clean,” he said.

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