Fiji Sun News - 28 March 2011
For villagers of Nasarawaqa in Bua, the youths have decided to take ownership of their land and toil it for a living.
About 80 acres of land had been lying idle for quite some time, but with the advisory services of the elders of the Nasarawaqa Development Project, the land is now being turned over for a greater investment for the future generation.
Meli Kidia, 49 years old and his first cousin, Josese Kidia, 32 years old, have been in the farming business since they left school at a young age and are now members of the Nasarawaqa Development Project.
They are also joined by Jeremaia Raleqe and Veresa Ceguadrau, who are both in their 20s.
The two young men, like the rest of the members of the group have been giving it their all when it comes to farming.
With the co-ordination and togetherness by other young men and women in the village, they have started their very own rice and vegetable farm.
“We started with one-and-a-half acres of rice and by the look of things, we will be in for the long haul,” they smiled.
“Dreketi is one of the well-known rice growing areas in the North and now with Naruwai in Bua also into rice farming, we want to put Nasarawaqa into the history books by producing more rice,” said the confident cousins.
The youth group started with nothing and had to practically borrow a pair of bullocks and its ploughing implements to get started on their farm.
“The thought of starting from scratch was quite scary at first but then when all hands were on deck, we realised that through unity and the traditional solesolevaki that we are well known for, anything is possible,” said Meli.
Solesolevaki is best described as the indigenous and traditional mode of co-operation between a group of people for the achievement of an allocated task.
With the technical advice and visits of the agricultural officers based in Bua and Dreketi, the youths began their quest for a brighter farming future.
Senior Agriculture Officer (Bua) Ilisoni Banuve said that the willingness and determination to strive through all the odds by the youths has been very encouraging as they are sure to gain a lot in the not too distant future from farming.
“It is ironic that the system of solesolevaki has just been revived in the last few years by the Agriculture Ministry and reintroduced to farmers taking into account the fact that it is the system that guarantees productivity in our village systems for countless generations.”
Banuve also said that mechanization might be the way forward but it must be recognized that the farmer himself is a key player in all farming ventures especially for a demanding crop like rice.
“The one thing that really stood out was the collaboration of the farmers and this is what I strongly believe will be the foundation of a successful farm and I hope that through networking and more collaboration between the members of the group, they will be able to develop further into other crops as well,” explained Banuve.
The four young men are not only concentrating on the group farm but like other members of the group, they have also been busy with their own individual farms.
They have also been busy with their own rice farms and say that there are many more aspects of agriculture that they would like to pursue, but all will be taken one day at a time.
“I hope that people around the country will realise the importance of farming and take it seriously as it is a source of food security and a means to earning money,” said Josese.
“I know of a few friends who have left farming completely because they have entered the workforce but I would not want that to happen to me as I am satisfied with what the land is rewarding me with,” he smiled.
They all agreed that the knowledge gained from the rice experts in Dreketi was quite valuable and some of the technologies of planting it as well were quite advance yet simple.
A technique imported from Indonesia was the ‘Lego’ system, a system designed to maximize rice production from a piece of land.
‘Lego’, meaning line in the Indonesian lingo, is carried out in two patterns the ‘Lego One’ and ‘Lego Two’ or ‘Line one’ and ‘Line Two’.
The technique means that rice is planted in rows of two or four followed by a space of 50 centimetres to enable the proper management of weeds. Farmers use this space to navigate through their fields.
Enhancing the good management of water and fertiliser application the technique also brought along with it a method where seedlings are raised on seed beds before transplanting to the various plots.
According to the dynamic four, farmers in Nasarawaqa have come to realise the importance of working together and cooperating amongst themselves instead of working individually.
“Farmers have realised that more can be done when they work together and through this their yield will increase enabling them to earn more money from their harvest,” he said.
“Time is neither mine nor yours so we must use it well and maximise it to achieve our goals in life.”
“We allocate certain days of the week where the task force work on selected farms and on our free days we carry out other chores or tend to our own farms but the heavy work are left for the group to carry out.
“The price of rice is quite good and tempting and if we take advantage of this a lot of things can happen and the country can be self sufficient in rice and proceeds can facilitate the improvement of our living conditions,” he pointed out.
Rewa Rice Limited buys all the local rice at $ 750 per tonne.
“Rice is a 90 days crop so why wait four years to harvest your yaqona when you can grow rice and earn money in 90 days,” he adds.
The Ministry of Agriculture through its ‘Rice Revitalisation’ and ‘Import Substitution Programme’ is persuading farmers to plant the high yielding varieties of rice such as Star, Nuinui and the Uttam which has the capability of producing 5.5 tonnes per hectare.
While rice farming is carried out on a large scale at Dreketi and Nasarawaqa, the Ministry is also targeting pocket areas in the Northern Division that have the potential for the commodity.
Government’s aim under its roadmap is to reduce rice imports to $5million by 2012 so that money used in importing rice will be shared by our local farmers.
Fiji imports around $40million worth of rice annually.
*KUINI WAQASAVOU is a staff member