Make use of the land – Ministry assists people who lost their jobs

Manoj and his wife Aruna Devi work in their nursery that was provided by the Ministry of Agriculture thanks to the British government. Picture: SUPPLIED

“It’s farming for me,” says Manoj Kumar after spending 16 years in the tourism industry.

The 58-year-old says he is not in any rush to return to his former job even when Fiji opens up to international visitors from December 1, 2021.

Manoj lives in Votualevu Cemetery Rd in Nadi and was one of those left without employment when COVID-19 crippled the tourism industry.

“I went to the Ministry of Agriculture and they helped by giving me a nursery kit. I want to thank the Government of the day. I look forward to more assistance so I can expand more.

“I started with one nursery planting coriander, cabbages, and other vegetables. Then I earned more and built another one. I got the pine posts and fitted it with a sprinkler system,” Manoj said.

In a second nursery, Manoj planted coriander, tomatoes, capsicums, eggplants, and chillies to name a few. However, his main commodity was coriander. “It’s easy to plant and grows in one month.” Manoj said he was confident to expansion after the first nursery kit.

“Now I am also planting outside the nursery. I have only four acres of land but I am making use of all of it. I am planting cassava, lime, lemon grass, duruka and a bit of sugarcane,” he said.

His water source is from a creek nearby that he pulls via a water pump through to his irrigation system setup around his land.

He has a steady market for his vegetables and sells almost every week, making around $400 in sales.

He said he used to plant before the global pandemic hit Fiji so after COVID-19 there was no choice but to farm full-time.

“I used to make more when I was working, I am just waiting for the industry to open so I can do better,” he said.

Asked on whether he intends to return to the tourism industry, Manoj said he was confident that he had made the right choice in farming.

“I do not think I will return to the industry when it reopens, I will just continue farming and expand. I confident to stick to farming,” he said.

From his vegetable farm, Manoj has since expanded into poultry farming, invested in chickens and ducks which has seen him supplying eggs as well.

He also has a tractor to help him with land prep activities. Farming has certainly made Manoj a happy man which is evident in the way he carries himself around his farm.

Manoj advised those who had land and had not yet made use of it to do so because “everything you need is in the land, money is in the land, life is in the land and there is no one to boss you”.

He was one of the 54 recipients who received nursery kits early this year thanks to the British government who handed it over to the Fijian Government through the Ministry of Agriculture to assist those who had been economically impacted by COVID-19, as well as those who had been affected by the two cyclones that hit Fiji late last year and early this year.

A lot of people turned to agriculture as an alternative livelihood option.

During the handover ceremony, British High Commissioner to Fiji, His Excellency George Edgar had said the event was a result of close collaboration between the high commission and the Ministry of Agriculture through its Food Security and Accelerated Agriculture Growth Plan aimed at rebuilding and accelerating agriculture in response to COVID-19 and the Tropical Cyclones Yasa and Ana that caused damage to Fiji including its agriculture sector.

When receiving the nursery kits, Minister for Agriculture, Waterways and Environment, Dr Mahendra Reddy thanked the British government for the gesture as it would serve multiple roles.

One of which was those who had lost employment in the formal sector were now able to secure an alternative source of income, which in turn, would expand the agriculture sector commercially.

Finally, the minister also said the nursery products under the care of the nursery owners would attract other farmers to buy, thus expanding commercial agriculture activity.

  • BRENDA RAGI is the principal information officer of the Ministry of Agriculture. The views expressed are hers and not necessarily of this
    newspaper.

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