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Perseverance does it

Kunal Deo
Monday, January 29, 2018

A decade ago, Irshad Hussein, a sugarcane farmer, turned to livestock farming with a dozen goats and just one sheep to his name.

The 45-year-old farmer of Namau, Ba described his beginnings as a livestock farmer as one of struggle laced with emotional strife as he worked to manage his new undertaking.

"It has been about 10 years now since I started my goat and sheep farm and it was quite a difficult journey for me as my stock was out in the open field, which was difficult for me to control because I was doing it all alone with my wife and the number of stock was quite big," he said.

Showing his gratitude to the assistance which has been provided to him was an emotional and proud moment for him, as his hard work over the years had now been recognised.

"I am thankful to the Ministry of Agriculture for coming in and recognising my efforts."

He started his livestock farm through the support of his family, wife and children.

"I was doing canefarming before but a time came when I could not continue canefarming because of the shortage of labour," he said.

"With the help of the Ministry of Agriculture, I then switched to goat and sheep farming because it does not require more manpower compared with canefarming and the reason I opted to go into goat and sheep farming was because of the hilly land I have here in Namau which is suitable for raising sheep and goat."

Hussein's journey since venturing into livestock farming in 2007 has not been easy. As he grew his farm together with his stock, it became difficult for him to control as his livestock which were left out in the open.

"When I started my farm I did not have the fence and it was very difficult to control the animals that were not fenced because at times they also damaged other people's crop while the risk of theft was always there," he said.

Hussein's dedication towards farming was recognised by the Ministry of Agriculture last year when he was assisted with materials for a goat and sheep shed, fencing materials and water tank under the Food Security Program in the 2016/2017 budget.

Hussein has 76 acres of land for both sheep and goat, now with stock of more than 150 goats and more than 40 sheep.

"My future plan is to increase the stock on my farm as now I have control over the animals as they are all in a fenced area," he said.

"I also want to start up some vegetable farming here because the animals will no longer be left outside and the risk of damage will not be there compared with the past," he said.

Like most farmers, Hussein also suffered in 2016 after Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston ravaged his farm, totalling a loss of $2,000 but Hussein never lost hope becasue of the motivation and encouragement provided by his supportive family to endure the challenges on the farm.

"More than a dozen goats died and some sheep also went missing after Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston, which I am still recovering from now," he said.

"After all this happened, I did not lose hope and I told myself that if I can start from nothing to something then this should not be a problem to me," he said with a smile.

"Though it was tough, somehow, I managed to move on after the devastation as I had the full support of my wife and my children," he said.

"If you do any business, there are profits and sometimes losses too and in farming there will always be ups and downs like any other business."

Hussein has experienced a lot of challenges and his advice to other farmers is to work hard and to always keep trying to achieve things in life.

"I just want to advise all those farmers who are starting or who are trying to start up their farm is that you should keep trying, whatever you are doing, one day God will definitely help you," he said.

Hussein also thanked the ministry for recognising him as a farmer and assisting him with the goat shed, water tank and fencing materials.

"I would also like to thank the agricultural officers who always visit our farm and provide us with technical advice," he added.

Hussein sells his stock throughout the year at the farm gate with prices ranging from $150-$250.

* Kunal Deo works at the Ministry of Agriculture. Views expressed are his and not of this newspaper.

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