Gabi Pepena, Sarokeina

The highway to Kwikila takes a diversion to lead the way to a small village called Sarokeina. We are visiting Gabi, a young and aspirational farmer, who has agriculture in his blood.

“This land was passed on from my grandparents to my parents to me! We have all tended to it with love, since it feeds us and employs us. But will my children want to continue as farmers? There is no electricity here, the city looks like an attractive destination to them – the land of opportunities. But actually, the opportunity lies right here in the land.”

Gabi’s vast plantation throbs with life – there are bananas, pumpkins, capsicum, eggplant, watermelon, and aibika, growing with vigour. The land is rich; however, it does need to be complemented with the right techniques.

Gabi and his wife, Kora, studied agriculture in school before they were forced to drop out due to financial troubles. But they haven’t forgotten the little lessons learnt in school and bring those techniques to the field.

One of them is growing patches of peanuts to improve the fertility of the soil, by converting nitrogen from the air and retaining it for the next crop. But there are some methods, learnt through tradition.

“We wrap the bananas bunches in leaves while they are still growing on the plants. This stops insects, birds and pests from attacking them, and creates an air-tight protective shield. Our bananas don’t get discoloured and meet the quality standards set by retailers like the CPL Group.”

Gabi’s wife helps him with the time-consuming chore – there are rickety ladders placed under the trees, which are used to precariously balance on, as the banana bunches are wrapped up one by one.

There is a colourful boundary around the plantation. Not just ornamental, this farming practice is about planting flowers of all hues deliberately and strategically to attract bees for pollination.

“We are serious about making agriculture mainstream. When we have partners like the CPL Group, accepting our supplies regularly and giving us advise on how to grow better, we dare to dream bigger.”

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