Finds purpose on his farm

Iqbal Hussein at his farm in Coqeloa, Labasa. Picture: SUPPLIED

Iqbal Hussein at his farm in Coqeloa, Labasa. Picture: SUPPLIED

SOMETIMES finding your purpose will take numerous attempts at various undertakings before you finally stumble upon your true calling.

This is evidently the story of Iqbal Hussein, who tried his hand at teaching before joining the financial sector as well as becoming a businessman, but the sense of fulfilment still eluded him until he decided to take up farming once more.

The 48-year-old former high school teacher went back to his roots to follow his forefather’s farming footsteps and start his Coqeloa farm on the outskirts of Labasa in 2015.

“Before I started farming, I was a school teacher for 11 years and from then I worked at Merchant Finance Company for eight years after which I started my own business from a small soap factory and then bought a hotel before starting up my livestock farm.

“After all other businesses, the reason why I came into farming was due to the peaceful feeling I get when I’m at the farm and it makes me feel good because my father and generations before him had been farmers and I thought, why not me,” said Mr Hussein.

Though he met a few hurdles during the initial stages of his farm, that did little to deter him from soldiering on with his drive to continue farming.

“Whatever farming or whatever business you do, you will definitely face some problems and challenges but it does not mean that you give up on trying. It all depends on how you tackle those problems and handle the situation.

“In the beginning, I had some land issues before I started but it all was sorted out, and then I had to prepare my own farm road, farmhouse and also had to fence the whole area so that the animals would stay within the boundary so as to not damage other people’s crops,” he said.

“I also had to take a loan from the Fiji Development Bank (FDB) to buy my livestock in order to start up my farm,” he added.

Since the establishment of his 400-acre farm, Mr Hussein has set a target of becoming a commercial farmer in the next five years.

“At the moment I am doing farming in the commercial line, trying to increase my stocks since I had started with 30 goats and 22 cattle which I purchased from Ba and Savusavu,” he said.

“I currently have around 150 sheep, 180 goats, and about 50 cattle and I plan to gradually increase my livestock so that in five years’ time, I could have a stock of about 500-600 animals on my farm,” he said.

“I am also planning to diversify my farm as I plan to also venture into bee farming and organic vegetable farming to supplement my livestock in the near future,” said Mr Hussein.

Since the inception of his farm, there has not been a problem so far as the market for his livestock as most of the time, sales are conducted right at the doorstep of his Coqeloa farm.

“The market is no problem for me, so far because for goat, sheep, and beef there are a lot of markets available and the demand is also high. I don’t take my products to the market but the customers they come and buy from the farm gate which shows that demand is there,” he said.

Mr Hussein also thanked the Ministry of Agriculture for playing a very important role in his farming business and supporting him grow his farm.

“The Ministry of Agriculture has supported me a lot in starting up my farm here in Coqeloa where they have assisted me with fencing materials, water tanks and most importantly the technical assistance and advice,” he said.

His advice to youth, “make use of the resources and the time you have at this particular age” in order to be a successful person in life.

“My only advice is to the youths out there that we have a lot of land available to us which is not being utilised and is idle, my advice to them is to take ownership and make use of all the resources available to them in the village or wherever they may be.”

* Kunal Deo is an employee of the Ministry of Agriculture.