The Honorable Minister of Agriculture, Rural and Maritime Development, Water Ways and Environment Dr Mahedra Reddy, Representatives of the Oceania Marist Province, Fr Provincial, Fr Setefano Mataele, Government officials, Tutu Board of Directors, invited guests, my brothers and sisters in the Society of Mary, parents of the young farmers, and in particular the 49 Young Farmers graduating today. Bula Vinaka and Welcome,everyone.
It is a joy and privilege for me to welcome our guest of honour, the Honorable Minister for Agriculture, Rural and Maritime Development, Water Ways and Environment and I thank you Sir for making yourself available to be present with us today.

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 modern ways of making traditional agriculture fruitful.

The history of our partnership dates back to 1972 when I am told that the Minister for Agriculture at that time Mr Doug Brown was our chief guest at the graduation of the first six months course and who at that time, committed the government to work in partnership with Tutu into the future. Fifty-two years later we are still working together in the partnership and I take this opportunity today to thank the present Government for the ongoing support through the annual grant.

It is a special joy to welcome Fr Setefano Mataele sm the Society of Mary Representative. Fr Setefano is the Provincial of Oceania Marist Province and is also a member of the recently created Tutu Rural Training Centre board.

The Society of Mary has contributed; 1109 acres of land, administrative skills, facilities, personnel without pay over the years, and perhaps most significantly, credibility in the eyes of the people, built up over the last years….. credibility born out of a relationship of presence, service and loyalty.

Ownership is the pathway to leadership. One of the greatest strengths of Tutu has been the sense of ownership of Tutu by the people of Cakaudrove. This ownership stems from the fact that they built the Centre through volunteer work. The story of the Tutu volunteers is a great example of hands up rather than hands out. Elements of volunteer work have continued to be part of the structure, and I thank the present group of Young Farmers for their one day’s volunteer work every week, which enables the Centre to operate.

The history of this partnership between the Society of Mary, the Government of Fiji and the people of Cakaudrove has been a fruitful one. There was a request by the government to extend beyond the province of Cakaudrove. As a result, we decided to initially extend the catchment area to include the tikin a’s of Dogotuki, Sasa, Wailevu and Seaqaqa in Macuata and Kubulau in Bua. These areas are accessible and homogeneous with Cakaudrove in terms of social structure, crops, markets and cultural value.

As of today through the help from the Government of Fiji through the Ministry of Agriculture we continue to bridge the gap within our catchment areas responding to the needs of our communities.

The local extension and research division for the past couple of years has always made itself available to take classes with the Young farmers, I must say congratulations to you Rohit, and your colleagues. We treasure your inputs and your belief in what we are doing.

Today we will officially be handing over our graduates to the Ministry in collaborating with Tutu for the monitoring of the young farmers five – year life development plan.

It is also with joy I would like to thank Caritas New Zealand whose representative is not here because of close borders. Caritas New Zealand is at present assisting Tutu to rehabilitate after TC Yasa and Ana while at the same time assisting with a significant project to consolidate the operational capacity of Tutu enabling it to be sustainable into the future. The project includes programmes on; soil enhancement, agroforestry development, fruit tree and vegetable development, breadfruit processing and value-adding activities, water reticulation, the newly upgraded farm roading, technical assistance, solar installation and hydro upgrade, board and staff training and providing the resources for the 2018 major review.

Speaking about the 2018 major review, I would like to congratulate the Review Team which consisted of Dr Andrew Mcgregor, Dr Rohit Lal, Mr Livai Tora and Fr IsaiaWairoga sm for the job well done and helping the centre with a follow-up project to Caritas NZ and MFAT in consolidating Rural Training in northern provinces of Fiji …thank you.

Sir, COVID-19 changes the way business organization operates and at the same time it changes all aspects of our lives leading to surprising discoveries. Tutu has helped in rehabilitating the functions of the degraded natural system through the supply of mucuna beans, ongoing supplying of fruit trees and compost tea which helps fix the degraded natural systems in delivering a climate positive future in which people and nature can thrive. This is being achieved with the exceptional involvement of the ministry of agriculture staff of both Waiyevo and Mua transmitting their knowledge and love of the soil, respect for the crops into a simple form for our participants.

New developments have been implemented with our long line of consultants and benefactors with Mr Rayner Page for the Tutu hydro plant and solar installation, Mr Sant Kumar of BulagroNadi on fruit trees and vegetable production, Lex Thompson and   Basil Gua in agroforestry, Mike James in financial administration, Dr Andrew McGregor and Ms Selina Kuruleca on research and developments, various government departments and many others in the local community and beyond. We are grateful for the advice that will help us sustain our centre into the future.

I would like to single out the involvement of the Pacific Farmers’OrganisationNetwork(PIFON), of which TRTC is a founding member. Our collaboration with PIFON has enabled us to build the first-ever farm tunnel for offseason vegetables and the design of the TRTC website.

In celebrating the graduation of the Young Farmers today, we are unearthing the model of Adult Non-Formal Rural Education that has enabled these young men to take hold of their own lives, build their own houses, and establish themselves as happily self-employed farmers in Rural Fiji today.

Even though this Young Farmers’ Course is rooted in the realities of agriculture, it is at heart a course about ‘people’. Their story is not about how much money they have made, although it is significant, how they had the door of a future open to them by a human process that we call Human Development. It is a process of liberation from personal and cultural constraints.

These young men graduating today are self-employed. They know as self-employed you are your boss…and you’re your boy also. He makes his own decisions, and he carries them out

The recent opening of our border means for us overseas investment which is important for those who do not have access to their own resources…..but let us also develop the resources that we have. And that is what this course is about. It is a development from within, development with dignity, development based on what we have got…. namely land. The present government policy of building a food secure Fiji is very encouraging for rural farmers today.

The development of Fiji is the development of its people, and today we honour these young men who are not looking to the new world out there somewhere, but a new world right here on their own land.

The Tutu Young Farmers is a course about farming, about using land commercially, about management, about rural development, about self-employment and so on. 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.

However, our greatest asset is the creativity and dedication of our staff who walk with these young men. The majority of our staff are from the local community and have been formed here in Tutu. From the leadership here in Naisavere, through the cooks, the technical staff, human development formators, the farmworkers, food development, the soil health department, finance, we are blessed with an extraordinary sense of mission…….and I thank them today with the utmost reverence. You have helped us re-set and re-organize running the program to fit the challenging time we are going through today…and I say Vinaka! Vinaka! Vinaka sakaVakalevu for your ability to work together towards a common vision.

In rural non-formal adult education, the agenda, the syllabus comes from the people in their home situation. The test of the process is what they can do back at home, not here in Tutu.

The human process in Tutu is to awaken a new awareness of the resources, the opportunities, the dignity, the unperceived possibilities that exist for them in the land and sea that they own. This is a human process and why our expertise needs to be in the field of human development. The empowering factor is in the human person whereby new enlightenment and new ways of looking at ourselves and the world surrounding us gives us the energy to take hold of our lives and take up the skills of farm management.

This process does not take place in space and so I want to thank especially today the parents of the young farmers. I thank you for entrusting your sons to us, for your support to them throughout the three years, and for your generosity in coming to attend the two days parents course that also concludes today.

Finally, to the 49 young men graduating today, your period in Tutu ends today. You go home to your own house, to your own already established farms, you take your furniture, your bankbooks, you go with a clear five-year plan and the energy to live it out. You have planned your work, now you go to work on your plan.

You have lived together in accepting each other’s differences, you have prayed together, you have met cyclones and sickness and 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. You chose in freedom to come here, and so we love you with the same freedom as we send you out today. Remember you have no debts here. Go in freedom and peace.

Vinaka Saka Vakalevu!

God Bless you all
FR PeteroMatairatu sm