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From NZ to a farm

Umendra Pratap
Saturday, December 02, 2017

Leaving behind a luxurious life overseas to take up farming in Fiji is uncommon, especially if you are a young man.

Yet, Navketan Singh Aujla of Navau, Ba did exactly this as he opted to return from New Zealand to take over the family farm in Ba.

Members of his family are in New Zealand and while there, he was heavily involved in the affairs of their family business, but it did not take too long for Aujla to think of his grandfather, Ujagar Singh a retired schoolteacher and former parliamentarian, who remained in Ba in his attempts to fulfil his dream of becoming a successful commercial farmer.

Aujla made up his mind to return and help his ageing aja (grandfather).

"My grandfather did not want to leave the farm and go to New Zealand with the rest of the family and he had some big dreams for his farm. I saw he was very passionate about farming and always talked about his will to develop the farm into an integrated system."

While in New Zealand, Aujla said his aja was constantly on his mind so he decided to return and join him on the farm.

Aujla said he just wanted to see his grandfather's dream come to fruition and for that he could sacrifice anything just to put a smile on his grandfather's face.

On his return, he did not waste any time and dove headfirst into the business and initially set plans on how to further develop the farm.

"I believe that every farmer needs to diversify their farm and not just depend on one single commodity," said the ambitious Aujla.

He added that he wanted to set an example to farmers of his community, especially youths, that when utilised well, the land could give you more than what was usually perceived.

"Most of the time when farmers are not successful in farming, they get disheartened and turn to other things that takes them down a wrong path.

"But I believe that if they are involved in different types of farming, it will keep them occupied and it can cover up for any commodity that is not successful. This is the concept that I am trying to adopt for my farm here."

In the past two years since he took up farming, Aujla admitted he encountered challenges. He adopted a trial and error method and did a lot of research about all the aspects of different types of farming.

"I have constantly been in contact with the agriculture officials from Ba office for any technical advice," he said.

"I also did my own research, while Google and YouTube also helped me a lot in discovering some modern techniques of farming," he said with a smile.

His farm is now popularly known as Aujla Farms. With sugar cane on his farm, he's also trying to come up with different types of farming including poultry (layer) on a large scale.

Aujla Farms has been involved in a number of farming projects ranging from poultry farming to pig farming and at the moment he has more than a thousand birds on his farm, supplying more than 3500 eggs every week to wholesalers.

He also has some cattle and plans to increase the stock number and develop more pasture.

Aujla said their aim was to be a market leader not only in livestock but also to diversify into vegetable production.

"The potential and growth of our venture is endless as the ever growing demand for fresh meat and vegetables increases and also the reduction of the younger generation taking up farming," he said.

Aujla Farms employs four full-time and a few part-time workers who are from nearby areas.

Aujla says as his farm will develop from semi-commercial to a commercial level and there will be far greater employment opportunities for unemployed people from the nearby village.

At the 2017 Western Division Agriculture Show in Nadi, Aujla was recognised for his hard work where he received two awards; the Best Poultry Farmer of the Year Award and the overall award for being the Best Livestock Farmer in the Western Division.

After receiving his award, Aujla dedicated it to his grandfather, the reason for his success.

Assistant Minister for Agriculture Viam Pillay recently visited his farm while touring the Ba area.

Mr Pillay has assured Aujla the Ministry of Agriculture will work very closely with him to ensure his farming plans are fulfilled.

He thanked Aujla for choosing farming as his profession and being a role model to other youth in his community and the country.

* Umendra Pratap works at the Ministry of Agriculture.

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