Graduation Speech for Tutu Young Farmers Course 2021

Graduation Speech for Tutu Young Farmers Course 2021

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

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.

Liberation from Constraints  (Series 5)

Liberation from Constraints (Series 5)

Personal constraints are those which we place on themselves through our own self-image as we seek the approval and acceptance of people who are significant to us in our lives. This involves previously unquestioned visions we have of ourselves, of the world, and of God.

Cultural constraints are those enforced by the particular culture to which one may be required to conform. In itself, the culture is positive but the necessity to conform to the communal way of behaving and working is strong. Any attempt to shy away can give rise to contradictions and criticism. This affects our Fijian people greatly, especially in the area of land use and economic endeavors which can be seen as individualistic and selfish.

Social constraints occur because we have all been subtly trained by the world around us in regard to our attitudes and beliefs. Some of these attitudes and beliefs are true, some half true, some false but they are constraints none-the-less, which affect our sense of freedom. Seeing and understanding these constraints for what they are, we can then readjust our sights, so that we are ‘set free’ (liberare), liberated from the confinement and oppression which control us.

This challenge from one’s social environment has been termed by Paulo Freire as the contradiction from which a person in a situation of ‘oppression’ is liberated through the realization that he/she has the power to transform the situation causing and keeping one oppressed. For Freire, the person who thinks and reflects goes about creating him/herself from the inside out. He/she transforms reality and liberates him/herself from the oppression that has been inserted by traditional pedagogy. In the same way, when he/she acquires a new way of thinking and understanding of the social status which changes him/her. For Freire, liberation is a deep understanding which liberates the person from oppression which is found imbedded in the consciousness of the individual who possesses it.

This is actually what Tutu is also trying to do – to have participants understand the constraints which are holding them in  ‘captivity’ so to say. It is the vision of ourselves, of the world and of God which we want to question.

Tutu is about helping the participants understand about their constraints

Responsibility for personal growth (Series 4)

Responsibility for personal growth (Series 4)

As we noted earlier, in discerning participants for Tutu programs, we look for a manifestation of desire and a willingness to make a commitment to the process prior to entry into the course. They do this by achieving targets set for and with them by our visiting staff in the home situation, in the year (or more) prior to commencement.

… we look for a manifestation of desire and a willingness to make a commitment to the process prior to entry into the course.

This process is holistic and includes the affective (emotional) aspect of life whereby a person is helped to take responsibility for his/her own feelings. This involves the whole person, including the intellectual aspect whereby participants are helped to take responsibility for their own thoughts, beliefs, and assumptions. Insights are confirmed by the ability and freedom of each person to name both the old and new way of seeing things. It includes the moral aspect whereby the person is helped to take responsibility for his/her own behavior, and his/her own choices. We explain the type of responsibility involved here as responsibility for autonomy, i.e., physical, emotional, and spiritual autonomy.

Persons in and through community (Series 3)

Persons in and through community (Series 3)

The person is central in this process, not things. While the individual focus is important, the process itself takes place in a group environment in Tutu. Values, ideals, dreams and visions are caught, not taught. They are picked up and passed on informally as well as presented formally in course sessions, from the formators, farm staff, even other participants, hence the importance of the group relationship.

Values, ideals, dreams and visions are caught, not taught.

Because this learning or human development process takes place in an institution, it is ideal that there are periods of oscillation between the home community and the institutional community. Our own limit is five weeks at most in the Centre, followed by the corresponding time at home. It is helpful for participants to have the opportunity to exercise their commitment to the values and ideals they profess individually, both in the context of the community which professes the same commitment, and in a world which may not profess the same values and commitment.

The immediate environment surrounding the person(s) during the process is important. The freedom for participants to grow and change demands a respectful, loving, and accepting atmosphere, so that they are free to challenge and be challenged in their attitudes, beliefs, and behavior. It includes what we call ‘loving confrontation’ which is stimulated by the principle of fairness and is an essential part of the process.

Human development an experiential process (Series 2)

Human development an experiential process (Series 2)

It is an experiential process. People learn through experience. The truths we live by are the ones we discover for ourselves; not what others tell us. The learner is in charge of the process. The learner sets the agenda. The learner initially begins with felt needs and must be led to discover for himself/herself the real personal needs. It is a process of empowerment.

Human development a process of empowerment