White Sailas is a lead farmer on Santo who hails from the island of Paama.
He has committed his time in cultivating his land to produce agricultural crops after spending three years in the tourism industry.
Farmer Sailas has returned to Santo due to high cost of living in Port Vila and continue to assist his family to do farming.
He was one of the speakers who shared his experience as a farmer to over 40 extension officers who were attending the second agricultural extension forum that took place at the Vanuatu Agriculture College (VAC) in Santo this week.
Since 1997 until this year 2019, family farming is one of the activities Sailas has considered as a priority for his families to ensure food security and generate income.
“In our family farm, we focus on root crops especially different varieties of yam (waelu and soft yams). After some years, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) knew about our involvement in yam production and started to assist us,” the Santo lead farmer said.
“DARD provides trainings that I have attended and also provides planting materials to assist us to continue to increase production.
‘I have obtained knowledge on how to multiply many planting materials from one planting material like yams. As a result, our family farm has developed and annually we use to harvest huge tonnes of yam.”
When visiting farmer Sailas’s family farm at Jubilee farm area in Santo this week, he confirmed that his families have been growing local waelu and also accessing hybrid waelu yams from Vanuatu Agriculture Research and Technical Center (VARTC). The high production of hybrid waelu yams are then shared to other farmers around Sanma province with the assistance of DARD.
“We have harvested over 20 tonnes of yam this season. Half of the yams are hybrid waelu and half are other varieties of yam,” Sailas added.
Mr Sailas was one of the lead farmers who have produced a huge tonne of white waeleu during the National Agriculture Festival (NAF) in 2018. The name of the yam ‘white waelu’ was named after farmer Silas for being one of the productive farmers in Santo.
The hybrid waelu (white waelu) was distributed to farmers through-out the country during the NAF through a popular game that was introduced at that time called ‘Pwevu’.
Sailas said a six hectare land was allocated solely for farming yams but only half hectare is currently being used for family farming.
“We have a lot more yams to plant but we need machinery to assist us in order to increase production.
Sailas said “yams are sold at the farm gate. We don’t go to market places to sell our yams. Our clients include Non- Government Organizations, business houses and members of the public.
“Yams are sold at VT150 per kilo. Annually, an amount of around VT3 Million is earned.
Sailas said if the DARD would assist them by providing machinery to increase production so prices of local products at the market will cost less. The SANMA DARD will continue working with farmers in Santo to invest in mechanization to increase production.
“My plan is to focus on farming yam. I would like to encourage farmers of Vanuatu to continue to work hard because agriculture is our life. We need to grow local and eat more local food. I believe that money is in our soil,” farmer Sailas concluded.