Leap from desk to farm

TAKING the leap from working eight hours a day and getting paid every two weeks to tilling the land requires a lot of things, among them faith. If you asked someone with a white collar job to leave that and instead consider farming, the answer would most likely be an emphatic no.

The individual would have to first consider his/her start-up capital, what equipment to buy, how she/he would manage planting and rearing livestock on a daily basis and the main question would be if this career in farming would match what he/she earned on a fortnightly business in the corridors of a well-ventilated office with comfortable chairs and gadgets with the latest technology.

Thirty-nine-year-old Esava Nabuta of Nadala Village in Nadarivatu made the decision four years ago to leave his comfortable life of working in the city to move into farming. After all, Esava already had land available.

So after working for almost two decades, Esava decided he would put into his farm work the same vigour and energy with which he had met the demand of a white-collar job. In that way Esava believed, would he be able to continue producing and meeting his family needs.

“I worked for the government for 18 years then joined a private company for a year before returning to the village in 2010,” he said.

In his native surroundings, one’s breath is easily taken away by the sweet aroma of country life in the highlands of Nadarivatu, where, in addition to the natural vegetation, one can see plots of vegetables, root crops and livestock.

Nadarivatu is renowned for many things. For instance it is where the Sigatoka River springs and is the home, depending on how you look at it, of one or two dams from which the Fiji Electricity Authority generates electricity.

“Regrets of leaving the city life and returning home are far from my mind as I am experiencing the fruits of tilling the land,” he said with a smile.

He left with his young family to start a new life in Nadala, planting only dalo and tavioka at that time.

“This is my third year in farming and I have learnt a lot ever since starting, when I first came back, with little knowledge and skills I possessed, I managed slowly with my family on the farm.

“Seeing the land lying idle motivated me more and I am grateful to the Ministry of Agriculture for being there for me from the beginning,” he said.

Esava’s humble abode, which the soft-spoken man built, is on grazing land. Next to his home is his greenhouse nursery.

Esava has been assisted by the Ministry of Agriculture in the setting up of a nursery and he was also provided with seedlings.

“I am glad the Ministry of Agriculture has always been helping farmers in far-flung places nurturing us beginners and continuing farmers,” he said.

Agricultural assistant (Nadarivatu) Veniana Nabitu said Esava was a hardworking farmer and had really progressed within a short time.

“This kind of assistance has really boosted his raising of seedlings and production of crops. He is also an example to other farmers and youths who are still trying to decide whether to make agricultural practice a job,” she said.

Veniana explained that from the seedlings Esava raised in his nursery, he was obliged to assist other farmers and share those seeds.

“Because of the geographical structure of Nadarivatu and the difficulties farmers are facing up here in the interior, Esava is really helping them with seedlings as it is hard to transport seedlings from Tavua.”

The Ministry of Agriculture assisted with the setting up of the nursery, supplied the seedlings and trained him on nursery management to broaden his skills and knowledge.

Esava works tirelessly from dawn to dusk nursing his vegetables such as capsicum, tomatoes and celeries and in supplying seedlings to farmers for $10 a tray as well as selling his vegetables.

“Apparently the seedlings in the nursery are for off-season and the Christmas period is usually when I am most occupied as farmers come in for seedlings and vegetables taken to the market,” he said.

“For markets, mid-year produce is usually taken to the Nadi and Suva markets for sale where it is supplied to a farm boy or a middleman,” he said.

In addition, he has 30 cattle, five of which are grazing cows on mataqali land on which he operates on. His grazers can be seen chewing on maize, consuming salt and producing milk. The milk is supplied to nearby villagers and is also for home use. He also sells beef during the festive season.

Despite the challenges Esava has faced over the years, his advice to those facing difficulties is to never to give up.

“For those looking for work in urban areas, do keep in mind that we have lots of land that are idle and could be put to good use.”

* Serenia Vilele is an employee of the Agriculture Ministry