A FORMER marijuana dealer and farmer has been issued a new lease of life earning more than $40,000 in less than four years from tobacco farming.
Twenty-six-year-old Ratu Sakiusa Dreunimolea, of Nawairabe Village in Navosa, grew up at a time when marijuana thrived in Navosa.
And like many other young villagers in the highlands, he was involved in the illegal operation for years earning money without sweat and struggle.
In an interview with this newspaper at his tobacco farm in Bilavou, the young chief said he was now living a normal life.
"I was still in school when our family land used to be planted with drugs," he recalled.
"Some villagers came and planted marijuana on our land. For me, as a student back then, I often visited the farms and asked the cultivators for my share.
"After receiving my share, I then used to sell marijuana to make money. This continued for many years until I left school.
"I was not living a normal life like many other cultivators then. We always feared for our lives because we knew we were involved in an illegal operation.
"Whenever a police vehicle arrived, I used to escape because I was always scared of being caught with marijuana in my possession.
"We used to earn huge sums of money but we never enjoyed life because we were always targeted not only by police but by members of the community."
Ratu Sakiusa said he decided to leave drugs because he wanted to focus on starting a new family.
"It was from here that I started planting vegetables, fruits, dalo, yaqona and cassava," he said.
"Over the past four years I have started tobacco farming and my harvest has been a revelation, netting about $10,000 per annum.
"This excludes the sales of my other root crops.
"With the money from tobacco, I have managed to purchase building materials for my new house."
Ratu Sakiusa said he had made the right decision and he no longer feared the police.
"Now I don't have to run away from the police. I am glad that I am living a good life and earning from the sweat of my hard work.
"I am expecting around $10,000 from the harvest of tobacco this season and plan to expand my tobacco farm next season."