No place like home

“Working 12-13 hours a day on a farm is not easy, especially when you are away from your family.”

These were the words of 48-year-old Ravindra Goundar, who worked as a labourer on a fruit and dairy farm in Australia and New Zealand 10 years ago.

Originally from Rakiraki, Mr Goundar had a change of mind and made the decision to return to Fiji to start up a farm of his own when he was working on a dairy farm in New Zealand.

“Before I came back to Fiji in 2010, I used to work on a dairy farm in New Zealand where I used to wake up at 3am and start my work on the dairy farm from 4am-7pm daily. I was paid $100-150 a day,” he said.

“I then changed my mind and thought why not I work hard like this and start up my own farm in my country rather than working 13-15 hours in a foreign country.

“Here, there are lot of resources available and the government of the day is also assisting and helping farmers in many ways.

“So I thought to come back and do something here in my motherland so that the money remains here and at the same time I can stay with my family and be my own boss.”

After experiencing what life had to offer overseas and the struggles he faced there, Mr Goundar bought a piece of land and started his own farm in Qalema, Rakiraki six years ago.

“I bought three acres of land which was nothing but bush when I first bought it but with the help of my wife, we cleaned this up and started with short-term crops which takes little time to harvest,” he said.

“On the three acres of land, I plant short-term crops like coriander (dhania), cabbage, lettuce and tomatoes which give me good returns.

“I have been supplying vegetables all throughout Rakiraki, Tavua and Ba markets daily. From that, I earn about $100-$200 a day.”

Mr Goundar spends 12 hours per day on his farm and employs three labourers.

Unfortunately for Ravindra, he lost all his crops during Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston but he never lost hope and continued striving for the best for his farm.

“Before STC Winston, my farm was full of vegetables which were almost ready for harvest but unfortunately I lost everything on my farm after Winston due to flooding as my farm is located on the river bank,” he said.

He commended the Ministry of Agriculture and the Government of India for providing and assisting farmers after the widespread devastation on his farm.

“The Ministry of Agriculture helped me with land preparation to start up my farm again after STC Winston.

“I also received some seeds from the Ministry of Agriculture which was given by the Indian Government.

“I wish to thank the Ministry of Agriculture for supporting and encouraging farmers especially the officers from the Ra office who visit us all the time and provide us with technical assistance in areas we lacked in. With their support and assistance, I have managed to start up my own farm here in Qalema, Rakiraki,” he said with a smile on his face.

Mr Goundar plans to buy another five acres of land and extend his farm to plant other local crops in the near future.

Agriculture assistant Morien Prasad said Mr Goundar was one of the hardworking farmers in the locality who never hesitated to do things on his own.

“Mr Goundar is one of our hardworking farmers who never gives up with his farming,” said Ms Prasad.

“He is a full-time farmer who started off his farming career with zero assistance from the Ministry of Agriculture but since then the ministry has assisted him with vegetable seeds, fertiliser, chemicals and later a water pump which he loaned to use on his farm to water his vegetables.

“Mr Goundar is a main supplier of on and off season vegetables to Rakiraki and Tavua markets.”

* Kunal Deo is a senior information assistant at the Ministry of Agriculture. Views expressed are his and not of this newspaper.

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