MIXING homebrew and being involved in a big brawl in 2010 was the turning point for Ratu Joji Uluiviti Foster who is now a successful farmer in his community.
Having to encounter shame and criticism from fellow villagers after the incident that cost the life of one of his peers, Ratu Joji took a strong stand for a new positive dimension using the land and resources available to start up his farm.
Originally from the Yasawas in the Western Division, the 26-year-old farmer has planted about 1500 dalo, 1000 yaqona, kumala, kawai and banana plants.
He also boasts 100 vudi and yam plants in his farm at Nacoqe Settlement along the Seaqaqa and Labasa highway.
Ratu Joji was part of the Citizens Constitutional Forum civic education training, which was attended by village representatives, community leaders, youths and chiefs in Labasa last week.
As part of his submission to the Constitution Commission, he recommended that youths be encouraged to use available resources even though they hold educational qualification.
“I completed my Diploma program in Civil Engineering two years ago in Suva and I came back home with the hope of securing a job in Labasa,” he said.
“While staying at home, I was tempted to mix home-made brew for my peers.
“I didn’t realise that such illegal activities would end up in a scuffle leading to the death of a peer.”
To be looked down on for an unintended deed was the worst experience of Ratu Joji’s life. He said it was a painful experience for anyone to go through. Ratu Joji was lucky in that his family stood by him.
“My parents kept encouraging me and I had to fast and buildup my spiritual self in order to change for the better,” he said.
“I decided to farm and every day I planted a crop or fruit tree. It initially started small but with the help of my family, friends and the Agriculture Department, I managed to extend it.”
Ratu Joji’s world started to change and he turned a new leaf after he started to earn at least $70 in a week just from selling his produce on the roadside.
He has built a two-bedroom house and supports his family financially from what he earns daily from his farm.
“Education and attaining a degree is not the only answer because there are other avenues available that can help us become millionaires one day,” he said.
“Some changes I would like to see the new government implement includes the emphasis of farming programs in schools and people, especially youths, to be encouraged to do something useful in life instead of relying on their parents and government for assistance.”
Ratu Joji also won the Young Farmer of the Year award at the Crest Northern Agriculture Show in Labasa two months ago.