Life and Money in Agriculture

A well-known local builder and constructor, Aku Dinh, has turned himself into a major kava grower with a vision to take the Vanuatu kava industry to another level now and in the years ahead.

This was evident when three state ministers paid a visit to his kava plantations in the Rangorango hill slopes and valleys on Efate on Wednesday this week.


Finance Minister Johnny Koanapo, Agriculture Minister Willie Daniel, and Trade, Cooperative and Tourism Minister James Bule, accompanied also by Infrastructure Minister Jay Ngwele, had the full glimpse of the Aku Dinh kava visional plantations, now a reality.

Mr. Dinh’s kava plantations appear on slopes and hill sides as well as in the valleys of the Rangorango region above the international Bauerfield airport.

The well-managed kava plantations further prove Vanuatu stance on intercropping with kumala, island taro, and island cabbage which is a focus of self-economic reliance.

In his remarks before the start of the tour of the kava plantations, Finance Minister Koanapo, said the Government of the day is committed to the Agriculture Developments in the country. He reiterated that the Government of the day places high priority on Agriculture hence the productive sector including kava products. He went on to add that the three ministers of agriculture, industry, cooperative, tourism and industry work hand in hand to ensure Agriculture Sector of Vanuatu Economy is fully developed and advanced into the future.

“It is the policy of the present government to ensure that every local farmer in the country are assisted towards moving from subsistence farming to becoming commercial famers. The present Government is here to help take the local famers to another level in Agriculture, and the minister of trade, cooperative and tourism is here to ensure local demand is satisfied and export of the kava product and all agricultural products have overseas market at acceptable times. The ministry of finance and the Vanuatu government is to ensure funding is available,” Finance Minister Johnny Koanapo, assures the local investor and every local agricultural farmers and investors.

“Vanuatu must look within to the local famers and investors and provide every assistance to them,” he added.

He also added that the present government is committed to recognize the local investors such as Dinh who have put in resources he has into developing such a huge kava farm as this for internal and overseas market.

“The present government is also committed to promote local investors and famers before looking beyond Vanuatu for foreign investors, particularly in the Agricultural sectors,” minister Koanapo added.

Mr. Dinh revealed to the ministerial delegation that he turned to agriculture, hence kava because he strongly believes that “Life and Money” is in agriculture.

“Everyone knows that I am a builder and constructor almost all my life, but then i saw the importance of turning to land, with a pair of hands to till the land because “life and money” is in agriculture.

“But I also want to emphasis that many people have always taken me wrong that am not local, when in fact I am local.

“I was born here and so my parents and i have lived here all my life. I am pleased to see you all ministers here today and wish to emphasis that it is important to recognize we the Vanuatu local farmers and investors. It is time for the government to give preference of assistance to the local investors and farmers and oppose to the foreign investors, particularly in the agricultural economic sector,” Mr. Dinh requested.

During the tour of the kava plantations, pausing from farm to farm and explaining different planting stages of the kava plants, Mr. Dinh, pointed out the month each plantation was planted, how long it would take to maturity and readiness for harvesting for local market and overseas market, mainly to Noumea New Caledonia importers.

On the question of the total money value of all current kava plantations, Mr. Dinh replied to the Daily Post question: “I cannot detail that out now but later as we get close to harvest and market time, I will tell you,” he replied with a smile.

Dinh eyes future possibility of establishing a kava factory that will produce pharmaceutical products or medicines.

At the end of the plantations tour, ministers of Agriculture and Trade and Cooperatives and Tourism gave their remarks.

Minister of Agriculture Willie Daniel, said the ministry he is responsible for is fully committed to the present government policy initiatives on the development of agriculture as a “Priority Economic Sector” for Vanuatu. “The ministry is working hand in and with the ministry of trade, cooperative and tourism to realize the country’s goals on Agriculture sector hence kava project. The project and plantations we see today is the classic example of the government policy on the sector to raise farmers from subsistence to commercial farmers, it is the government of the day policy to ensure every farmer is given all assistance available to turn land into farms, in kava and all other agricultural sectors. That is why these three of us, with the ministers of trade and finance link together to ensure we fully implement the government policies on agriculture where lies the life and money for our people. We are at the juncture where we must meet the market demand both local, regional and beyond,” minister Daniel stressed.

He assured Mr. Dinh that the government will provide the assistance required to him and all local kava investors and farmers throughout Vanuatu.

Minister of Trade, Cooperatives and Tourism Mr. James Bule, said on his part, his ministry and officials under his ministry will ensure that the government of the day policies on trade and export of the kava and all other products are met. He said it is high time the country of Vanuatu give priority to this sector in order to arrive at a point time where Vanuatu’s own agricultural products will increase and the country become less depend on imported agricultural goods. He urged the farmers such as Mr. Dinh to turn to commercial farming in all sectors of Agriculture.

The Minister of Finance call on all heads of departments and sections under all the government ministries to take note of what they have seen on the visit, prepare to implement the present government policy directions and do not hold up such policies.

Mr. Dinh said he is prepared to work with government agencies in terms of providing technical and other advices to local farmers and investors and as well as supplying kava branches to local farmers anywhere in the country, as the demand comes along: “I am here to help and we must all work together to realize all our dreams to make Vanuatu an economic self-reliant nation,” says Mr. Dinh.

About the author: Aaron Taravaki
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