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Large tracts of taro give way to patches of vegetables

By Pio Sioa

APIA, Samoa (Newsline Samoa Newspaper, March 4, 2008) - An inspection group of Government officials has been discovering over the past several weeks that the days of long undulating stretches of green patches of taro are gone.

What they are discovering is a new farming trend where smaller plantations averaging up to 2 acres and increasingly diversified, is more becoming common place.

The new mindset is to diversify into quick cash crops like vegetables and fruits with small patches of taroes planted alongside.

The departure from planting larger tracts of land that averages between 5 to 10 acres , common with taro plantations in the past, is blamed on how the taro plight wiped out the taro industry.

With the introduction of new plight resistant varieties of taroes, farmers appear to be taking a wary approach by planting little and including other crops as well.

The cautious approach has also seen the planting of different varieties being grown together, giving farmers the chance to determine the best taro to focus on.

The Assistant CEO of the Ministry of Agriculture and also Head of the Nu’u Research Division, Ms. Laisene Samuelu Mariner welcomes the trend.

She is also the leader of the Upolu inspection group that has been carrying out inspection and assessment visits of the rural farming communities.

"The planting of vegetables, fruits and other cash crops together with taroes is good," she noted.

"Each crop has its own pest problems and by mixing them up and exposing the various crops to the problems increases the ability to resist the diseases."

Ms. Mariner’s inspection group represents selected officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and the internal affairs division of the Ministry of Women and Social Development.

They are part of a new approach referred to as Talomua aimed at encouraging national food security.

Talomua replaces the annual Agriculture Show, where farmers from around the country are given the opportunity to display the fruits of their work and to inspire other farmers through competition.

The Talomua undertaking switches the attention to inspection visits by two separate groups to work in the two main islands of Upolu and Savai’i.

The groups will judge based on the findings from their visits.

"We’ve been carrying out inspections of the plantations from Aleipata across to Falealili, Safata and Lefaga, as part of the Talomua for Upolu," says, Ms.Samuelu Mariner.

"Our other group is in Savaii doing the same inspection visits as we have been doing since 28th of January."

The judging involves 19 different crops that also included head cabbages, pumpkins and carrots.

The introduction of new crops like carrots is part of the attempts to encourage farmers to diversify their effort.\

" Carrots do grow in Samoa but farmers are not growing them, but we are hoping to encourage them to do so by including it as one of the crops they will be judged on."

The Talomua this year covers only selected districts on the two islands.

Savai’i involves farmers registered for the competition from Palauli up to Fuailalo in the south and Fa’asaleleaga in the north.

Upolu stretches from Aleipata across to Falealili, Siumu, Safata and Lefaga.

Talomua has a budget of $180 thousand tala for this year, so the coverage is limited to the funding available.

Other districts will have their turn next year as the annual programme continues.

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