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Fiji Time: 1:00 AM on Friday 18 April

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Gasa never looked back

Solomoni Biumaiono
Tuesday, November 27, 2012

GASA Tiko is a self-made man. This Nasoki villager from the island of Moala had just managed to deposit his one third contribution at the Rural Housing Scheme for a two-bedroom house he wants to build in his village.

He managed to do this through the proceeds he made from selling 300 yaqona plants he brought from the island on board the government vessel Vatulawa.

The 29-year-old is over the moon that he has managed to achieve his aim after first setting out towards this venture, five years ago.

In 2007, Tiko started his yaqona farm in the village and through the years, increased production from one acre to what is now an eight-acre plantation with five-year 4000 plants all ready for harvest.

"I am glad that I have managed to deposit my one third contribution. All that is left now is for the housing material to be shipped over," Tiko says.

His decision to quit school after passing the intermediate exam, as a class six student at Davetalevu Primary School, is beginning to pay off.

"After I passed my exam, my dad told me that I would be packing my bags to come to Suva to complete my education at Ratu Sukuna Memorial School but I told him just to give me the knife and the file because I was going back to my village to start farming," Tiko says.

"My dad asked me twice if that is what I really wanted and I was determined, so he let me have my way," he says.

Being the youngest in a family of 10, Tiko wasn't daunted by his decision. Slowly he started working towards his goal of making a life for himself.

He started off by helping his father at his farm and as he grew up, started his own farm and took over when his father passed away.

"Just before he died he called me and told me that he had prepared me to be successful and now it was my turn to take over from where he left off because all my elder brothers and sisters had moved on and started their own families," Tiko says.

He says his dad left him with a launch and a 30-horsepower outboard engine to start off with, and from there he has never looked back.

Despite the many challenges and distractions that he faced in his young life Tiko was not swayed from his dream of making a living off the land.

He stayed back and through the help of the Department of Agriculture officials, managed to buy his first yaqona cuttings to start his farm.

As the yaqona matured, he would take the cuttings and add more plants to his farm.

"When I go back I plan to harvest more yaqona plants and bring it to Suva as I want to expand my business," he says.

Tiko plans that with his next harvest he wants to buy a solar power unit that he hopes will provide electricity for his newly-bought house.

The house provided by the rural housing assistance scheme will give Tiko a house which costs more than $12,000.

"I think every villager should realise that they can earn a lot from their land rather than coming to town where they lose focus so quickly because of the many challenges they face here," Tiko says.

He says the decision to buy a house with the money he earns from selling his yaqona was only made last week after a visit to Moala by government officials.

"I thought that is the best way to spend the money and also it is to prepare me and give me a chance to start my family perhaps," Tiko says.