Earthing Laudato Si Valueshar

Earthing Laudato Si Valueshar

People are poor if they are unable to have access to what is generally considered to be a reasonable standard and quality of life. Poverty deprives people of their involvement in structures that are the necessary avenues to get out of their suffering.

Backyard farming is another way that can help individuals form his/her access to nutritious and healthy foods. The growing of local traditional food crops must be supported and this is due to high nutritional value and its health benefits to our body.

Recently Milio Vakasirovoka a pastoral year student from Marist College Suva uproots his dalo farm which he plants in March this year from his backyard. The backyard has been idle for a number of years and no lives evolve from within. As a good steward, Milio tries to regenerate the soil with compost and compost tea while farming the land. Milio’s adoption of simple lifestyle of making food choice that is sustainable and less wasteful enables him to put healthy and nutritious food on TRTC Lura community table.

The simple lifestyle contributes to the Reduce, Refuse, Reuse, Recycle policy which contributes to the Care of our Common Home. The use of backyard farming technique is a way of ecological education for anyone who says that he /she is poor.

Simple ecological education such as fixing the soil, reduce, reuse material for composting is another way of educating our young generation today which sometimes they don’t understand what the ecological impact has been. Our younger generation has no real experiences as to what things were liked in the past. The form of education should be experiential said Milio.

Composting System
The simple composting system adopted by Tutu Rural Training center
harvesting Dalo
The harvest is rich…Milio with dalo from his backyard farm

Milio will be leaving for the Novitiate program in Rome this year and the Tutu community will continue to support him in prayers. As a good Laudato si animator, he believes that we work to create light for others and at the same time we naturally light our way…Vinaka Milio Vakasirovoka.

Vanilla As Part of Integrated Farming

Vanilla As Part of Integrated Farming

For more than 40 years the Tutu Rural Training Centre has been working on integrated farming methods at its Oceania Farm and at its participant’s farm. The methods have been adopted by many farmers within the Tutu catchment area. This integrated approach combines different types of farming techniques for demonstration to farmers. It includes nursery management, crop rotation, composting, mulching as well as Vanilla farming.  The Tutu Vanilla demonstration block is part of the integrated farming system.

The pollinated Vanilla flowers.

Vanilla is a climbing vine that has its history in Tutu in late 1978, which was brought in by the early Marist Fathers and Brothers of the Society of Mary. The idea was to be integrated into the cropping system for the initial set-up of Tutu and its program. The freshly leaves that can reach 25 centimeters long and 10 centimeters wide became an activity for those on formation and managed to be replicated to different parts of the province of the participants. In the early years of the 1980s, Vanilla was dropped from being a crop as it is been looked at as time and labour intensive.

In the year 2012, the agriculture commodity Vanilla made its way back into Tutu and thanks to Br Iosefo Cakaunivalu S.M. for re-introducing the commodity. Sourcing of planting material is not a problem as it is already grown wild from the previous Tutu vanilla farm.

TRTC Vanilla Orchard.

With 207 Vanilla plants at the demonstration site, Vanilla has made its first flowering this month after nine years been grown in the field. Br Iosefo S.M. continues to persevere daily like any farmer tendering his Vanilla orchard. Now fifty of his Vanilla plant is been flowering and has attracted young farmers and other farmers who are interested in Vanilla farming.  

Vanilla leaves up 15cm long and 10cm wide.
Human Development Through TRTC Courses

Human Development Through TRTC Courses

Skilled guides: Leadership through accompaniment (Series 6)

The guide must have walked and continue to walk the journey in his/her person. He or she must have a clear vision of the world around him and yet have a clear vision of what can be. He/she must have the personal integrity and freedom to lead through his/her person, and not through authoritarian structures.

The guide must be a person of compassion and empathy able to articulate both the pressures and forces at work in our lives and the vision of another way of living. He/she must have a listening heart so that the participants are aware that the guide knows intimately of the personal sufferings and cultural pressures upon each one of them. As the participants move towards autonomy the guide must be able to stand back in a quiet, patient, and unassuming manner. Attitudinal change is a slow process. The guide needs to collaborate with fellow guides on this journey of ‘walking with people. There is a difference between collaboration and teamwork. Teamwork divides up the work for reasons of efficiency and convenience. Collaboration involves a certain personal vulnerability in performing the task in hand together so that others can see the quality of the relationship which can inestimably contribute to the building up of the atmosphere or people-environment required. In this, we are working with people rather than for them. We call this leadership through accompaniment.

As the participants move towards autonomy the guide must be able to stand back in a quiet, patient, and unassuming manner. Attitudinal change is a slow process. The guide needs to collaborate with fellow guides on this journey of ‘walking with people. There is a difference between collaboration and teamwork. Teamwork divides up the work for reasons of efficiency and convenience. Collaboration involves a certain personal vulnerability in performing the task in hand together so that others can see the quality of the relationship which can inestimably contribute to the building up of the atmosphere or people-environment required. In this, we are working with people rather than for them. We call this leadership through accompaniment.

Every Young Farmer and every Young Single Woman participant has one of the eight staff married couples as their leader. The couple sits with the young male or female farmer and listens to the detailed plan of what they will do and expect, or what has happened, succeeded, failed, before and after going home in the five weeks’ oscillation. Each couple has six Young Farmers to lead/listen to whose farm blocks are in the same section as theirs so that they meet them informally often and in a common working environment and space. This enables them to wander across and look at each other’s plot and chat informally. This is where the story comes out. They are on the ground, they are boss. The couples are the listeners. This is where real non-judgmental listening happens. This is really about relationships at home – their life and story where they have never had listening but have had to unravel and have reacted. This is the heart of human development for us. This is about self-image. It is about their agenda, their hurts, and their pains.

Each week when the Young Farmers are working on farms with farm staff, core staff couples meet for half a day to share factual information about the individuals in their group about what they have done in gardening, personal information which may be affecting the behaviour of any individual, and any other obstacles that we all need to be sensitive to which may be affecting the young man or young woman. So we are discerning, sifting through and this is why in the group context there is a safety net as the person can be heard. We have good people who know how to discern.

In all of this discipline is required – adult discipline. Both the guide and the participants need to be involved in drawing up the steps to discipline. The process of appropriation/internalisation and the reasons for structures need to be known by both. Accountability needs to be clear from the beginning of the course, especially with the Young Farmers or the Young Single Women. The qualities of the guide will be most tested with young adults. Working with youth comes naturally to no one (unless we mistakenly become one of them). Youth require the most dedicated of guides. The words and concept discipline and discipleship are thus closely intertwined.

Lead With Service

Lead With Service

Being a bold innovator is a choice that must be backed by a commitment. At this time of  COVID-19, everyone is called to put life on new growth. In this sense, we are called to be refounders. Refounders have the gift of being able to go to the roots of problems and create imaginative ways to overcome them. He/She deeply thinks through issues before acting. Recently TRTC staff met in planning and reorganize activities for the second half of the year preparing to take risks founded on faith. The planning day has pushed everyone to a willingness to live and work in the darkness of faith as well as the ability to articulate inspiringly and in an empowering way, a vision that is committed to hard work…with love.

Opening Address for the 2020 Farming Couples Graduation

Opening Address for the 2020 Farming Couples Graduation

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.