A role model to many

A village located on the hilltop with a view to the ocean in the district of Vuya in the province of Bua is where 55-year-old Sakiusa Vunivalu resides.

The Navave native is a former military man having served the country in peacekeeping duties.

Today he is a role model for the men and youth of his village as he is one of the best yaqona and dalo farmers in the province.

Sakiusa first participated in peacekeeping operations in 1978 and was among the first local soldiers recruited by the United Nations to be deployed to Southern Lebanon to be part of the UN Interim Force in the Middle East.

As years went by, he found out from relatives living in the village that while there was a high demand for yaqona and dalo in the province, there was good enough returns earned. This was when he decided to leave his full-time job to become a farmer.

After working for 22 years, Sakiusa returned to his village in 2000 and began planting yaqona and dalo on 60 acres of land.

The two crops had a lot of potential in the province in terms of land availability, farm accessibility and capacity of farmers.

Sakiusa says in the village of Navave, farming is a norm and he takes the work associated with it as something significant.

“Being a farmer is the best career choice I made because I was able to raise my family in a healthy environment with fresh food supply.”

Sakiusa begins each new day when the cock crows at dawn.

The challenge of going early to the farm and then working throughout the day in hot and humid conditions is always a concern but that does not deter him from working towards his goal.

Sakiusa hires five labourers to work on his farm when there is a need especially during planting, weeding and harvesting.

Married with four children, his eldest son is a member of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces while his two daughters are married and live in Suva. His youngest son attends Queen Victoria School.

With the earnings from his farm, he has been able to finance his youngest child’s education, build another concrete house and buy a family car.

“The best part is that I am my own boss and am able to do the work according to my timetable, and after a hard day’s work I get good returns.”

Sakiusa is blessed to have the market come to his farm gate. He sells yaqona to two middlemen from Labasa market at $25 to $40 per kilogram.

“I sell dalo to another farmer in the area at $1.20 to $2.50 per kilogram depending on the market demand.”

Sakiusa was trained on proper time management and all aspects of disciplinary measures during his working days with the RFMF.

This trait has become a part of his lifestyle and he is able to be a good role model to other farmers in the village.

Sakiusa also finds time to encourage the youths to engage in farming and to utilise the land wisely for income and food security.

“As a turaga-ni-koro, I was pleased with the development taking place in the village especially seeing youths engaged in farming.

“The evidence of their hard work can be witnessed among the community with children being educated in the urban areas, concrete buildings and vehicles such as trucks and cars being bought by the villagers for ease of transportation,” he added.

He believes the main reason the village has progressed is because of the constant encouragement being given to people to venture into farming which was a source of income for them as well.

“Even the turaga ni yavusa supported the idea of utilising the land where we plant abundantly in order to feed our families.”

Sakiusa added that those dreams were achieved through the facilitation of meetings held every month among villagers in engaging youth towards agricultural activities and stressing the importance of farming.

“I also appreciate the efforts of the Ministry of Agriculture for providing technical advice to the farmers in the village which has boosted the production,” he said.

According to Agriculture Technical Officer Anare Leweniqila, Sakiusa is one of the devoted farmers in Bua with tremendous achievement shown in the past years.

“Because of his hard work and dedication, he was awarded the Best Yaqona farmer and Best Farmer of the year at the Bua Agriculture Show in 2002.

“Even though he engages himself in various activities, he cannot forget farming,” he added.

* Maria Laqeta is a staff member at the Ministry of Agriculture.

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