RATU Etuate Draunidalo worked his fingers to the bone as a civil servant. These days, though, he laughs his way to the bank — and back — as a commercial farmer.
Six years ago Ratu Etuate traded in his job in the civil service to return home to till the land. Now he's one of six millionaires on the island of Ovalau.
His money-makers? Yaqona and dalo. And his secrets to success? Time management, discipline and proper planning.
This year Ratu Etuate has planted 34,000 yaqona plants which are estimated to earn him $13.4million.
The 59-year-old farmer is a modest and humble man who acknowledges that his wealth comes from the natural resources around him, the land. But he's also very realistic in his everyday living, an example of which is a weekly food budget of $70 which he adheres to with almost religious strictness.
"What I've earned in six years as a farmer is far more than what I earned as a civil servant," he said.
Ratu Etuate has two permanent labourers and he provides employment for youths and villagers of Lovoni District.
He invests his money in his children's education. His eldest child is in New Zealand and he pays for the tertiary education of his two other children pursuing degree courses at the University of the South Pacific.
"I only spend $70 shopping a week for my wife, my youngest son and I," Ratu Etuate said.
"And we have a very strict budget that we stick to."
Ratu Etuate is one of the farmers on Ovalau who has been assisted by the Agriculture Ministry and the government through the rural and outer island project.
According to Lomaiviti provincial administrator Kelepi Kubunameca, yaqona farming earned the province $3.7m in cash inflow in the first six months of the year.
The message is the same at the national level as the government continues its efforts to ensure food security by placing emphasis on agriculture and its significance to the national economy.
The staging of the week-long Crest Agriculture Show in Lautoka attests to this, with the government encouraging people to realise the potential of farming the land.
In Ratu Etuate's case, it's made him a millionaire. And as his good fortunes continue, he is sharing his knowledge and expertise with other farmers as the mentor of the Green Valley Farmers Group, which consists of 13 farmers at Wainivaivai settlement in Lovoni.