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Villager pins hope on sandalwood farm

Repeka Nasiko
Monday, January 06, 2014

FOR Nasau villager Meli Naisele, a sandalwood farm is the answer to financial woes that many iTaukei people may be facing.

Situated on the hilltops of Nasau Village in the Navitilevu district of Ra Province, Mr Naisele's farm started two years ago and now boasts 4000 sandalwood seedlings.

Mr Naisele said the farm was an initiative he pioneered when approached by officials from Nature Fiji.

"They had conducted workshops with us at the village and showed us some of the village projects that we could go into to earn a living," he said.

"Many of our villagers in Nasau depend on selling coconuts and sasa brooms.

"I wanted to start something different, so I decided to venture into sandalwood farming."

Mr Naisele said the workshops with Nature Fiji had offered enough information for the farmer to start cultivation. "They had given us books on how to start sandalwood farming and the right kind of conditions we had to provide."

He said the nursery had faced challenges initially.

"We don't have a lot of land in our area.

"Because of sea level rise, our village does not have a lot of land mass for planting crops so a sandalwood farm would be even difficult."

Situated along the coastal lines of the Ra Province, the village has seen the direct impact of climate change with rising sea levels threatening homes and food source.

Mr Naisele said a project such as sandalwood farming was always going to be a challenge given the community's current situation.

"I had to go to another area far away from the village to set up the nursery."

He said conditions for the nursery also proved to be a challenge but after more research, he managed to erect a homemade greenhouse for the nursery.

"With that first nursery, I managed to breed about 400 seedlings, then that grew to 1000 and now I have about 4000 seedlings."

Mr Naisele said the secret to the quick growth of the nursery was water.

"I constantly water the seedlings. I noticed every time I watered them every day for about a week, the seedlings were healthy and grew very quickly."

However, the Nasau villager said personally nourishing the plants was also a challenge. "I have to get water in a bucket and then take it to the nursery. That kind of task for 4000 seedlings is too much."

He said a water tank was a much better solution to his problem.

"I am working on getting a water tank but with help I know I can get it," he said.

According to Mr Naisele, with each tree valued at $30,000, he hopes the farm would expand into a bigger business to provide financial assistance for his family and the village.

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