Our guest of honour, The Permanent Secretary for Agriculture, Mr Ritesh Dass, Government officials, invited guests, members of the Tutu Board, my brothers and sisters in the Society of Mary, families and friends of the farming couples, and in particular the 12 farming couples graduating today. A warm welcome to you all.
It is a joy and privilege for me to welcome our guest of honor, and I thank you the Permanent Secretary for coming and making yourself available to be present with us today. Despite your busy schedule, we found in you sir, a kindred spirit who understands and lives the same simple values of human formation that is at the heart of the Tutu model.
We have a long-standing working relationship with the Ministry of Agriculture and our partnership together has been a fruitful one. That is why we continue to work together over a number of years trialing the Tutu experiment.
Sir, you are able to understand our ways of operating from the ground up, and we appreciate your patient, caring, hardworking, listening and yet disciplined approach.
In your recent touring around the country during this time of COVID containment sir, you will have noticed that agriculture has become the hope of Fijians since COVID 19 closed down the tourism sectors. Agriculture has become the hope of people.
Tutu is about making a difference to people, and your presence Mr Permanent Secretary makes a difference to Tutu and as I warmly welcome you today I want you to know that you are special to us. We are proud to have you as our guest of honour for our Farming Couples, for whom we wanted the best, and you are the best.
Since its early beginnings, Tutu has operated on a partnership between the Society of Mary, the Government of Fiji, and the people of the Province of Cakaudrove.
Through the Ministry of Agriculture, we are grateful for the open relationship with the government that has enabled us to be creative in discovering new and innovative ways of making traditional agriculture more appealing.
In acknowledging the financial grant from the Ministry of Agriculture I also want to express thanks to the Minister of Agriculture, the assistant minister and you sir for the spirit of open communication and understanding.
Our on-going partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture for the last years is quite exceptional especially with our collaboration with Mr Rohit Lal and his staff of both Waiyevo and Mua transmitting their knowledge and love of the soil, respect for the crops into simple form for our participants.
The local extension division for the past couple of years has always made itself available to take classes with the Young farmers, single women, and the farming couples. I must say congratulations to you Rohit, and your staff. We treasure your inputs and your belief in what we are doing.
Today we are expressing what has been previously taken for granted by officially handing over our graduating couples to the Ministry to work in collaboration with Tutu for the supervision of the couples five – year life development plan
I would like to thank Caritas New Zealand whose representative is not here with us because of closed borders. Caritas New Zealand are assisting us in a project that consolidates our efforts in Soil Enhancement, Agroforestry, fruit tree development, vegetable enterprise production, energy through the hydro and solar, and governance with the establishment of the Tutu Rural Training Centre board.
This project has enabled us to engage personnel such as Lex Thompson and Basil Gua on agro-forestry, Andrew McGregor and Selina Kuruleca for research and developments, Sant Kumar on fruit trees and vegetable production, Rayner Page on hydro and solar production, Kenneth, and Shauna for IT development and others as consultants who have advised and helped us sustain our centre into the future.
These people I have mentioned are at the top of their game and so are able to communicate with us on the ground in simple language that connects and empowers.
I would like to single out the Pacific Farmers Organisation Network(PIFON),of which TRTC is a founding member. Our collaboration with PIFON has enabled us to host the first Tutu Farmers Forum in July this year, as well as design the first-ever Tutu website in which we will witness the launching today.
I would like to thank Ma and Eric for their tremendous contribution to the mission of Tutu. They have been hosting the married couples field visit, been involved in the village course for the last 30 years and Eric has been part of the Tutu board until his passing on from this life this year.
We value people of judgment, discernment, and wisdom obtained from using the listening eye and the listening heart. There is no substitute for on the ground involvement if people want to form partnerships.
The Tutu Farming Couples course is about assisting farming couples to joyfully accept their call as rural farming families in their village situation. In achieving this aim the course endeavors to heighten the awareness, motivation, and skills of married people to make better use of their resources to enhance their livelihood.
It is about using available resources commercially, about management, about rural development, about self-employment in agriculture. Skill training learned enables farming couples to set up farming as a business enterprise in their home situation. However, at its heart, it is a course for people.
It is about their hopes and dreams, their hurts and pains, their relationships, their affectivity, their growth in autonomy whereby they are helped to take charge of their own lives and relationships. This process does not happen by itself and we are blest in this part of Fiji, and here in Tutu with wonderful physical resources in the soil, water, power, fruits, vegetables, and forestry.
However, our greatest asset is the creativity and dedication of our Tutu staff who walk with these farming couples. You have helped us re-set and re-organize running the program to fit the challenging time we are going through today. As majority of our staff are from the local community and have been formed here in Tutu; we are blessed with an extraordinary sense of mission…….and I say Vinaka! Vinaka! Vinaka sakaVakalevu for your conviction and commitment. We rise as a team and we fail as a team.
The process used in this accompaniment of their human formation is called Non-formal Adult Education….a process not always understood by those who have grown up in the formal education system and continue to work and live their lives in formal employment. It is a process of growth in freedom from the fears and constraints that bind us, both internally in how we perceive ourselves, and externally in the barriers, that prevent us from taking responsibility for ourselves and as a couple.
Our challenge is to open the door for them. And the door is in their minds and hearts and deeper desires, whereby we listen to them, walk with them, and make space for them to dream, and to realize their dream.
Finally, to you the farming couples graduating today. I see you about to leave us today with your newly acquired skills, a new way of understanding and believing in your goodness as a couple, with a five-year life development plan and especially new confidence in your hearts using the power of your couple relationship.
You have lived together in accepting each other’s differences, you have prayed together, you have grown in patience and maturity beyond your years.
I say to you, congratulations. We are proud of you; you are a source of great joy to us.
I re-echo the words of my predecessor Fr Michael McVerry sm: “You chose in freedom to come here, and so we love you with the same freedom as we send you out today. Do not look back. You have no debts here.”
God bless you all.
Fr. Petero Matairatu sm.