The Future is Equal

Female farmer stands out in a market full of root crops

Read about Ilene’s family-feeding and income-generating success, through a little hand-up from the FSA and Oxfam.

Written by Dominique Doss and Glen Pakoa

Ilene Kiel, 38, is a successful female farmer in Lounapkalangis village who has seen firsthand the benefits of FSA’s support. Ilene and her husband, Kiel, have been farmers for many years; they make a living by cultivating local root crops such as taro, cassava, yams, sweet potato, banana, island cabbage, and peanuts. The family consumes most of the harvest and when they need money for school fees or basic necessities for their home, they sell some of their crops.

“Everyone around Tanna is selling the same crops, so it’s hard to stand out from them and make a decent income. Many times the crops just don’t sell; it’s difficult to make money because we are all selling the same items.”

Through FSA’s 2016 recovery program, the organization sent vegetable seeds to Lounapkalangis village, for Ilene to distribute. “I was responsible for selling the seeds around the community. They sold for very low prices, so when people heard about the seeds from FSA, they rushed to buy them. I would run out of the seeds quickly and people would always request them because they saw the high purchasing demand for the harvest.”

Ilene now has a vegetable garden where she grows broccoli, ball cabbage, carrots, lettuce, cauliflower, beans, onions, capsicum, tomato and peanuts. “FSA gave us broccoli and cauliflower seeds, which people in other villages don’t have, so we are able to sell most if not all of our harvests.”

Seeing how well FSA has benefited their family, her husband Kiel began helping Ilene more by clearing the bush and ploughing the soil, as well as helping her harvest the crops when they are ready.

“The support that FSA has given us has not only helped us build better lives but it has also allowed my husband to work closer with me. I like the fact that he is willing to help and support me, we are now working as a team. It has made us a stronger family and it has been a good influence for our children to see.”

Although this has been a great success for her and her family, IIene has dealt with some challenges.

“We live close to the volcano and this is a major problem because when the ashes fall on the crops, it kills them and I’m unable to sell the harvest. It is disheartening when this happens, but I know the benefits of harvesting the vegetables, so I don’t hesitate to start over.”

Ilene is dedicated to taking care of her family’s vegetable garden and is committed to selling the harvests every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at the Lenakel Market.

“There are very few ways for us to earn money here in the village, we have grown up in the garden but I found that it’s not just about growing root crops and selling them at the market. We needed a way to differentiate ourselves and FSA came with the right kind of tools to help us do that.”