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Against All Odds

Against All Odds
Farmer Peniasi Leyauli (right) with Fiji Sugar Corporation Chief Operating Officer, Navin Chandra during the FSC Olosara Sector day on May 24, 2018. Photo: Charles Chambers
May 25
15:42 2018

Most people would have thrown in the towel if they had gone through what 72-year-old Peniasi Leyauli went through, and that would include some of the best cane farmers.

For this former employee of St Giles Hos­pital, taking time between his work in Suva and tending to his canefield in Olosara, Si­gatoka was one hurdle in itself.

His determination and resilience through misfortunes which includes having no one to help him harvest or load harvested cane and having lost a few years of harvesting after part of the Sigatoka Rail bridge was washed away in a flood has been one suc­cess story.

Today Mr Leyauli stand stall as being the only cane farmer still planting and harvest­ing cane in his sector.

He related his story during the opening of sugar cane planting in the Yalava Sector in Olosara yesterday.

Mr Leyauli hails from Nawamagi Village, one of three villages in the sector.

“I have been planting sugar cane for 18 years and today my farm is the only one still producing cane after other farmers stop planting 10 years ago when the bridge was washed away.

“Before that mishap, I was producing up to 105 tonnes in a season.

“After retiring from St Giles in 2006, I de­cided to concentrate fully on my cane farm as I love doing this and would come to my farm anytime I had a break from work when I was in Suva.

“In 2009 when the floods took away the bridge, all farmers here stopped planting as we could not get the cane to the mill in Lautoka.

“I continued to tend to my farm and at one stage I was asked by iTaukei Land Trust Board (iTLTB) (then Native Land Trust Board) as to how I would pay my lease in the future and I promised them I would con­tinue planting cane and that would pay my lease.

“My rent arrears went up to $3000 but through the cane proceeds I had received af­ter that I managed to get rid of it.”

Mr Leyauli said he crop size dropped to around 50 tonnes and then he started hav­ing problems with finding labour to help him harvest.

“I used to hunt for labourers but nobody wanted to harvest so sometimes I did it on my own.

“One time when I had harvested the cane, nobody was there to help me load the cane and the lorry took off and my harvested cane was left in the field and rotted until the next season.

“I did not despair or was downhearted and continued to plant cane.”

Mr Leyauli said he was determined and there was no time for him to think of giv­ing up cane planting as he had a family to support.

He has a 12 acre farm but because of poor drainage beside the main road, water flows back into his land and this has forced him to utilise only part of the land for sugar cane planting.

“I am asking Government to please fix the drainage. However I would personally like to thank the Government for its assistance to the sugar industry and us farmers.

“We have never had this support before and we are fortunate that we are bein g helped to get back on out feet.”

Mr Leyauli said he would be aiming to in­crease his tonnage again to over 100 tonnes per season and hopefully if all his land could be utilised, that would increase even more.

Feedback: charles.chambers@fijisun.com.fj

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