Ami likes it tough

FARMING, is as many rightfully say, a tough occupation. It requires sacrifice and dedication in addition to the demands made on one’s personal time and the required stamina for physical labour.

That, however, has not deterred 70-year-old farmer Ami Chand who believes that as tough as it may seem, it is all worth the effort as the rewards are immense.

Chand, who hails from Waya in the tikina (district) of Bemana in the Nadroga/Navosa province, has lived in this farming community all his life. He is a farmer like his father and grandfather, whom he remembers as hardworking, and treated farming as a business more than just a hobby.

Continuing with the family legacy, Chand over the years has also experienced his fair share of hard work putting in the commensurate effort. Today, he owns 321 acres of land on which he has 400 livestock; cattle, goats, chicken and ducks, and 30 horses. He also grows suki (tobacco) and assorted vegetables such as Chinese cabbage and maize.

Farming over the years for Chand has been no easy feat. He’s had his share of struggles.

“In those days there were no roads so we used horses as our means of transport to the farm and market,” he reminisces of earlier times.

“We used to have a number of horses on the farm because my grandfather used to take part in horse racing during his time and was also a boxing promoter to our well-known local boxers Sunia Cama and Sakaraia Ve,” he said.

A father-of-four, Chand’s normal routine usually begins at 6am and ends at 6pm from Mondays to Saturdays. When the need arises, he hires extra help for the planting, weeding and harvesting.

“Vegetables need proper husbandry practices so I make sure that I visit my farm on a daily basis to observe the growth of the crops and to see if there is any need to spray for pest and disease.

“Livestock such as cattle and goats are left to graze freely in the pasture paddocks and on the free land.”

Chand sells his vegetables at the local markets while the livestock is sold from the farm.

“I sell ducks, rooster and chicken from $30 to $40 each depending on their size and weight while cattle and goats are sold according to their weight,” he said.

Chand readily admits farming is beneficial and provides good returns if managed well.

All four of his children, three of whom are residing overseas, were put through school with the money earned from farming. His only son helps him on the farm and manages their stall at the Suva market.

Mr Chand is thankful to the advisory services provided by the Ministry of Agriculture over the years.

“I work closely with the Ministry of Agriculture to seek technical advice on farming and also for assistance on my farm.”

The ministry has also assisted him with fencing materials for the safekeeping and grazing of his livestock.

Despite his age Chand still has the passion for farming and challenges the youths of the country to consider farming.

“I would to like to urge youths of today to work hard so that they can look after themselves and provide food on their table,” he said.

With a glimmer in his eye, Chand proudly states that given any day he can still produce more yield on a farm, faster and better than young people who have much more stamina and strength.

Chand said young people needed to seek wisdom and retain the knowledge passed down by their elders who were engaged in farming because this would assist them greatly in the long run.

“When I was young, I always wanted to become a farmer, so I followed my elders intently and listened to what they imparted and I can say today that I am a successful farmer,” he beamed proudly.

* Maria Laqeta is an employee of the Ministry of Agriculture.