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Lessons for farmers

Monika Singh
Tuesday, March 14, 2017

ELENOA Nayacalevu was the only woman yaqona farmer present at the Ministry of Agriculture and Pacific Community (SPC) organised workshop on the Fiji Kava Quality Manual and the Fiji Kava Standard last week and she has plans to assist other yaqona farmers in her province get access to plant cuttings for their farms.

Ms Nayacalevu is a young yaqona farmer from Wainiyabia, Serua and she has been planting yaqona for the past five years, with her first harvest last year.

She said there were about five to six yaqona farmers from Serua who were at the workshop and launch of the kava manual and Fiji Kava Standard last week and she was the only female.

"I'm married to a man from Serua and his mataqali had a lot of land lying idle and that is when I decided to try yaqona farming.

"My husband has been encouraging me in this project and I have learnt to manage my time between looking after my five children and my farm," she said.

Ms Nayacalevu said she was part of a similar workshop on kava last year and that was how she learnt about time management and proper planting and processing of the commodity.

She said prior to being part of the workshop this year, she was not well-versed with the proper way of spacing and planting yaqona and had just managed to plant 1 acre of the crop.

"However, being part of the workshop has taught me the value of using space wisely and I have realised that if we had used the method then we would have been able to plant more," she said.

Being the only woman in a field dominated by men has proved to be a challenge for most women and Ms Nayacalevu had her share of challenges.

"I was the only woman in the workshop and I would get funny looks from other participants and criticism but I did not let it affect me.

"There are a lot of female farmers out there in the villages but they do not know where to get help from.

"But for me, the Agricultural Officer at Navua has been very helpful and encouraging and has been assisting me with useful information on the farming.

"He was the one who had encouraged me to attend these workshops and I am very grateful to him and the Ministry of Agriculture," she said.

Ms Nayacalevu said in August last year she harvested 50 to 60kg of yaqona which she dried and sold from her home.

"I do not sell my product to the middlemen because I believe they are not fair to the farmers. I sell my crop at $70/kg and I do this every week," she said.

Being a smart farmer, Ms Nayacalevu also uses the cuttings from her previous yaqona plants for new planting and she has managed to grow more than 100 cuttings from the last harvest.

She plans to build a nursery for her yaqona plants and she has received interest in her project from the Australian Government who have offered to give her a grant of $15,000 for the nursery.

"The farmers in the Serua/Namosi province have been finding it hard to get good seeds for their yaqona farm and that is why I have decided to start my nursery and supply these farmers with the plants from it," she said.

Ms Nayacalevu said another shortcoming of her business practice was not keeping proper books of her sale.

"The workshop has been very useful to me and the other farmers because it taught us the importance of keeping proper records of how much I have sold," she said.

Ms Nayacalevu thanked the Ministry of Agriculture for the chance to be part of the workshop and encouraged more female farmers to take up yaqona farming.

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