Name: Alana Tukuniu
Agriculture is not an occupation that comes with a desk, PC, and a
comfortable fallback chair. No, Agriculture is so much better than
this, it comes with a connection, to our ancestors, to the earth, and
most importantly, and too often overlooked, to the very core of human
survival – eating. Without food we will not survive. My generation
is one that has been weaned on processed baby food from a bottle made
in another far away country, the Nanethat was
instrumental in my grandmother’s childhood is now a delicacy that I
look for at village show days each year. Why? Because the value and
importance of Agriculture is too often understated. Eating is just
that, eating, and agriculture is just that, agriculture, they are
separated as two different entities. It needs to be shown that eating
is part of the chain that started off with the seeds sown by a
farmer. Without farmers, there will be no food.
Humans can survive without a laptop, but we cannot survive without
food. So what is my advice to a young person wanting to start up
their own agricultural enterprise? Start small, and work your way up
to expansion. Do not think of farming as a monetary commodity alone.
Agriculture is much more than this, and it’s this understanding of
Agriculture’s importance and its broader scope in our life that
will help young farmers through the tough times, because in farming,
let’s face it there are more variables to contend with, than in an
occupation such as IT. It should be known that my advice is in the
context of my Niuean life.
I am not a full time farmer, but I do grow my own vegetables, some of
which I have sold. I also keep a small flock of chickens and my
partner raises pigs, so my advice is not from the experienced mouth
of a Niuean farmer, who has practiced farming through the many
changes that has occurred but I do ask my family question after
question about farming and I constantly work through offered
solutions. I continue to experience the challenges that face farmers
each day, the persistence of pests and disease, issues surrounding
soil fertility, and difficulty in accessing to capital to begin an
agricultural enterprise. I do consider myself a farmer nonetheless.
My day always starts with nourishing my chickens with their feed, and
ends after work each day with a trip to my plantation, As I make my
way to my plantation and tend to the crops that I grow, I am often
faced with depleted crops, victims to the hungry mouths of
caterpillars and snails, or struggling due to a nutrient deficiency,
and still, I continue to grow crops. I have experienced the
monetary rewards that come with a successful harvest, and I have
experienced the frustrations at a failed crop, and this is why my
advice is to not look at farming as a monetary commodity alone, but
instead perceive agriculture as a partnership of money, culture and
our environment. You will need this perception to keep pushing you
through those hard moments.
We do now live in a cash economy, and we do need income, so why is
agriculture not a monetary commodity alone? Because as a farmer you
are contributing so much more. Agriculture is instrumental in
keeping our culture alive, in addressing climate change issues,
health issues and in preserving the environment. Our culture is lived
through many things, including our traditional foods, they are at the
backbone of our cultural festivities such as haircutting ceremoniesor the opening of the yam season, I cannot imagine boxes of KFC
hanging on the kafika as gifts to those that have supported us, or
cold McDonald burgers replacing the puaka as the centrepiece on the
table. It’s not only our cultural ceremonies, which are dependent
on agriculture. Our crops are the staple in our umu; it is
unthinkable to think that it could be replaced by New Zealand grown
potatoes or otherwise. Food is a cultural link, and growing it
locally supports our culture as well as our environment. It’s these
thoughts which keep me growing.
As young people, we are becoming more aware of the effects of climate
change. It is our future, in which we will live in, and therefore our
future that we need to protect. When we grow food for our communities
we are reducing the impacts of climate change, through the reduction
in imports amongst other things. We address health issues because
eating local food is much better for us than eating imported
processed food. It’s for the above reasons that agriculture is not
a monetary commodity alone, it’s the link to our culture, health
and environment that will push us through the hard times, when money
alone does not stand to reason for our time spent working the land.
It’s these thoughts which keep me growing.
Our time on the land need not be spent alone. Support is always
available in its many forms. The Agricultural Ministries are always
looking to support farmers. Let your local Ministry know that you
want to be involved in farming programs that may run; at the very
least they may be able to help with an input starter kit that enables
you to start off a small enterprise. Talk to you youth council
members so that they can lobby for youth involvement in
agriculture/business venture programs at higher levels of dialogue.
Our communities are always looking to empower our population, as
young people we need to ask, and keep on asking, until we are heard
and receive what we need, and this includes information and advice on
In saying this it is easy to overlook the most basic levels of
support and who can best support us. Look to our own community for
support. When we investigate our history in traditional farming, our
forefathers did not have mechanised tools from which to work the
land, they did not need cash to produce food. Seeds were shared
amongst families, and this practice is continued onto this very day,
most people in our families have a pig pen, and this is a free source
of fertilizer. To begin a farming venture, you only need to ask for
the little things that will enable you to begin your venture. In our
community there is always someone willing to help you, it may not be
the first person you ask but there will be someone, because that’s
who we are as Niueans.Agriculture is a pathway to reclaim and
conserve our heritage, sometimes we need to look to the past so that
we can sustainably move forward. It’s these thoughts which keep me
What value do we place on possessions, when they are merely given to
us? Not nearly as much as those for which we will always remember how
hard we worked for, and how we laboured in order to achieve them. The
most effective support will always be ourselves, as individuals and
together as a community. Why? Because in the end it will be in our
future in which we need to survive, and our culture which we need to
preserve. The future is not in ten years, it is tomorrow, when we
wake up and look in our cupboards and ask ourselves what are we going
to eat today? Instant noodles or puaka and taro? It’s these
thoughts that keep me growing.
Being a farmer is like becoming a famous musician, you work hard, but
know ones how hard you truly worked to make it, except yourself.
Success can be measured when someone comes to you and buys your
produce. And keeps on doing so. Making the decision to engage in
agriculture is an affirmative decision for our culture, our
environment and ourselves.
AGRICULTURE AND FORESTRY POLICY NETWORK (PAFPNet)
IN AGRICULTURE ESSAY, NEWS, ART AND PHOTOGRAPHY COMPETITION
should be accompanied by this form and addressed to Ms Miriama
Kunawave, PAFPNet Secretariat, Land Resources Division, Secretariat
of the Pacific Community, Private Mail Bag, Suva to arrive no later
than 22 October, 2010. Communication will be limited to winners only
or those requesting the return of original materials. Applications
may alternatively be submitted by Fax (No. +679 338 6326), hand
delivered to the SPC Suva office or emailed to [email protected].
call +679 3370733 – ext 35344 for further details.
(b.h); (683)4929 (a.h)
of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Niue.
Ms Alana Tukuniu.
My name is Alana Tukuniu, and I reside on
Niue. I am a Crop Research Trainee in the Department of Agriculture,
Forestry and Fisheries, this is not just my employment it is my
I didn’t always like growing crops, and
often baulked at my father who, liked to grow his own vegetables. My
attitude shifted once I connected farming with the environment and
how they could positively support each other. I currently grow my own
crops, some of which I sell, at my own plantation and keep a small
flock of chickens at home. My partner also raises puaka for a mixture
of cultural ceremonies, income generation and home consumption. I am
constantly learning about farming, and love the sight of crops
growing healthily, and collecting eggs from my chickens each morning.
My passion for agriculture continues to strengthen as I constantly
see the benefits that are derived from it.