Trialling tomatoes for Solomon Islands' conditions
Trialling tomatoes for Solomon Islands' conditions.
A Honiara tomato farmer says his developing of seeds especially for local conditions is the first step in his dream to make Solomon Islands completely self-sufficient.
George Riifalu's farm, which provides most of Honiara's tomatoes, is part of a trial organised by The World Vegetable Centre, also known as 'AVRDC'.
Mr Riffalu and the NGO are working together to test seeds, which will then be distributed to other farmers around Solomon Islands.
GEORGE RIIFALU: It started in 2007 and we've come to realise the varieties that we wanted because of our climate here. So we've selected about four different varieties at the moment. There are other varieties which are very susceptible to disease and pests. We've come up with four different varieties that can stand those things.
MARY BAINES: So what you're doing is the biggest trial centre for tomato growing in Honiara?
GR: That's right, yeah.
MB: And you'll take your seeds once they've been trialled, and other farmers will be able to use them?
GR: The varieties we've got now are open-pollinated, not hybrid, so we can even produce our own seeds and sell it to the other farmers or we can share, do a bartering system with other farmers if they have seeds.
MB: And I understand you would really like to see Solomon Islands more self-sufficient, not importing so much?
GR: That's the main aim. It's mainly food security. They want to improve our food security and all that. Imported stuff is so big in this country and we tend to rely on that. The food from the garden it's really growing less, so I desired to venture into it.
MB: Where does your produce end up? Is it for your family and to sell?
GR: Just recently I've got married and I don't want to get myself into snacks and all that stuff from the shops. So I thought, 'Oh, I'll get into my farming and I'll eat from my garden' and it's cheaper for me. I do sell, as well, and get myself food from the garden. Because it's very expensive here in the Solomons to buy food.
MB: You were a dentist in New Zealand for a while, weren't you?
GR: Actually, I was a dental technician. I studied at the Central Institute of Technology in Wellington and then I came back and worked for a while and then the tension broke out. And then I went back to Auckland and started working with one of my friends there from 1999 to 2006.
MB: So what inspired you to get into farming?
GR: It's my hobby since high school days. I've taken permaculture as an elective from Form 3. Even when I got into dentistry the interest was still there. And when I came back, since 2006, I decided 'I think I've had enough of making teeth' and I started to go into farming. In fact, I brought in some seeds from New Zealand and that's when I started doing farming.
MB: And you're largely self-taught, aren't you?
GR: That's right, yeah. I very much encourage young people to get into farming, gardening, just vegetable gardening, around their houses or homes, just to add to the stuff in the shops which is not good for our bodies. That's my message, anyway.
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