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'Only way' to live

Solomoni Biumaiono
Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Ilaitia Mavoa Samisoni gave up his work as a qualified chef to return to farm the land.

To any other person in Fiji this would sound familiar as to earn a living from the land is nothing new in Fiji and its people.

But to Ilaitia the land has brought to him as sense of purpose, something that he felt that he has been missing or spending the last 23 years of his life looking for.

"The land has given me that satisfaction I was looking for all this time. I had spent a considerable part of my life living in Suva, Naitasiri and later in Rakiraki before coming back into town and later to work but farming is what I enjoy the most," Samisoni said.

The Waitabu villager from Lakeba Island in the Lau Group was born and raised in Suva where he spent his early years before his parents moved to Naitasiri to farm.

Later the young Samisoni and his parents and siblings moved to his mother's village at Navolau in the Ra Province where he continued his high school education.

"I later came back to Suva to complete my education and earned a food and beverage diploma which took me into the tourism industry but I must tell you, we have never realised the potential there is in the land," Samisoni said.

Between 1991 and 1996 Samisoni worked as a chef at hotels. Despite all the glamour one might associate with working in that industry, he didn't last long and returned to Suva where he started his own barbecue business.

"Here I also started to work together with the street kids feeding them from my barbecue stand where I spent money from my own pocket to help them and I was helped by a man named Sotutu from the Methodist Church feeding these people," Samisoni said.

At this particular time of his life, Samisoni said he still had not found his purpose as the only life he knew and grew up in was struggling in the rat race that went hand in hand with the urbanisation.

"And later we moved over to Davuilevu where through the help of Sotutu and the Methodist Church who were able to provide a house for the street kids to live in.

"It was only later after I came back from prison that I finally started to work this piece of land," Samisoni said.

He lives at Savutalele settlement just outside of Suva where there are acres of arable land and Samisoni finally made up his mind after leaving prison that he would just return to the land.

"With only a digging fork and a cane knife, I started this farm and when I first started back in 1998, I was living in a tarpaulin tent for two months while starting my farm.

"You see all these tree stumps? They were cut down with only a cane knife. I didn't have an axe and so I only used the cane knife," Samisoni said.

Beaming, Samisoni now has more than 2000 yaqona plants growing after starting with only 10 plants seven years ago.

"I must tell you there is no other way you can live in Fiji and this is something that people should understand that by working the land is the only way we can live in Fiji," Samisoni said.

In the last seven years his farm has been running, Samisoni has returned to school and acquired carpentry skills.

He had also rebuilt his own life and is now looking after his parents as well as his wife and three young kids.

Aside from his yaqona plantation, Samisoni is also a carpenter and would go around helping people build their houses at a much cheaper price than other builders.

"But one thing I want the most is to be able to lease my own piece of land or even own it and I would like the authorities if they can help me with this," he said.

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