Salani farmer has confidence in manioka
A farmer from Salani village believes he has found a miracle crop, which Samoans can rely on to sustain their diet in good and bad times due to its durability.
Farmer Fuimaono Viiga, who was a recent recipient of funding from the Pacific Islands Rural Agriculture Stimulus Project (PIRAS), has got his eyes set on the root crop cassava which is known locally as “manioka”.
He told the Samoa Observer in an interview that not many people in Samoa plant manioka despite its various benefits.
"You know not many people plant it in Samoa but I have done my research – it is a very sustainable crop because of its durability,” said Mr. Viiga.
“You can leave the manioka in the soil for more than a year and a half, even though it is ready in eight months.
"You can also just take what you need and leave the rest of the crop in the ground so that there is no waste.”
Funding that Mr. Viiga received through the PIRAS has enabled him to expand his manioka plantation, and he is looking forward to reaping his harvest, due to the many other uses that the vegetable has.
"I have planted 20 acres of manioka with 30,000 manioka in the ground. We also planted 300 ufi (yams), 500 ta'amu and a lot of taro for food.”
According to the Salani farmer, the root crop also has many other uses which Samoans can benefit from.
"You can make starch and flour with the manioka. It is used as chicken feed, pig feed, biogas and the whole plant is useful. The leaves are nutritious so you can use them in soup.”
And thanks to the durability of the manioka, Mr. Viiga is contemplating buying a flower mill for his family and providing employment for villagers in the long-term.
"The ultimate goal is for a flour mill where people in Salani and families can be employed and also be part of the process," he said.
When asked what inspired him as a farmer to get into manioka farming, the Salani farmer credited his father whom he said was a teacher, farmer, fisherman and cultural advisor.
“Growing up under his [father’s] wing was very tough as he made us grow food all over our land," Mr. Viiga said.
His philosophy was simple, he just planted food all over the land. My father would say just put it in the ground.
“It is not up to you if it grows, that's God's job, your job is to plant. As a result our family always had food and we had a lot to share with others.”
The vulnerability of food crops to pests including invasive species was also an area that the Salani farmer did research on and concluded that the manioka is not vulnerable like other other vegetables.
“We know bananas are vulnerable to many diseases and hard to look after. We also know the taro is impacted with invasive species, but the manioka is not.
My research shows that the manioka is only affected by rats and pigs. Rats live under stones so we clear the land of rocks and pigs eat the manioka, but here in Salani we don't allow wild pigs so that is constrained enough.”
According to Mr. Viiga, the manioka is grown in other Pacific nations including Fiji and Vanuatu, but says that if more Samoans plant the crop then it will open up the opportunity for a flower mill to be established.
"If more Samoans grow it, we can make our own flour and we can eat healthy because it is much healthier than rice," he said.
Mr. Viiga indicated that he has been approached by people for supplies of manioka roots to plant and he can be reached on the mobile number 7599110.
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