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Netani Kuila: The Farmer Who Took Up Farming As A Means Of Survival

Netani Kuila: The Farmer Who Took Up Farming As A Means Of Survival
From left: Ministry of Agriculture staff Akuila Nacoke, Netani Kuila, his wife Torika Leba and Ministry of Agriculture official Waisake Maseikula in Batiki settlement, Waibau, Naitasiri. Photo: Ministry of Agriculture
August 19
14:40 2018

Netani Kuila is a name synonymous with farming in Batiki Settlement, Waibau up in the highlands of Naitasiri.

Mr Kuila left his home island of Vanuavatu, Lau, in order to shoulder his responsibility as the eldest in the family.

He recalls having only one thought: “look to the land.”

Mr Kuila assumed the role of a parent to his younger brother and sister and remained steadfast in his resolve to provide for them.

“The time had come for my sister to continue her secondary school education,” Mr Kuila said.

“In those years, there were no high schools on the island so my siblings and I went to the city for higher education.

“Coming to the main island requires money and support; we had relatives in Suva but I wanted them to have family support and to keep seeing familiar faces to avoid being homesick so they could excel in their school work.”

Mr Kuila’s sister attended Ballantine Memorial School while his brother went through as a boarder at Ratu Kadavulevu School.

Both returned to the farm during school holidays to eanr pocket money for their school fees.

Location

Mr Kuila’s quest to see his siblings through school brought him to Waibau, Naitasiri, in 1963.

He moved to Lomaivuna in 1965 before settling for a 15-acre piece of land in Batiki Settlement in Waibau, Naitasiri in 1969.

The Waibau farm is hard to miss.

On the way to Lomaivuna, the farm stands out on the landscape,  with apparently endless dalo plantations.

Mr Kuila rotates his dalo plants with ginger during the summer.

Passion for farming

His passion for farming has grown through the years.

He bought himself another 30-acre piece of land in Wailase, Naitasiri where he continued to farm.

Most young men from his time left to find jobs in the urban center, but he continued pursuing what he started.

Starting a family

With income from farming, Mr Kuila managed to meet the educational needs of his siblings.

Once that was taken care of, he settled down and started a family of seven of his own.

The farmer raised his children on the farm.

As fate would have it, Mr Kuila’s passion rubbed off on his children.

They have started their won commercial farms.

Thirty-five years on

Thirty five years on and the ambitious farmer still continues with assistance from his wife, Torika Leba, his son and labourers.

“Farming is my medicine,” Mr Kuila said,

“Even though I have come of age, I still make time to keep pursing my passion as I have experienced the goodness that toiling the land affords me.”

He has diversified onto poultry farming, with a total stock of 18,000 birds and three poultry sheds.

His poultry farm has been a frequent practical site for agriculture students of the main tertiary institutions in Fiji.

Assistance

In 2015, he received assistance through the Demand Driven Approach (DDA) Programme of the Ministry of Agriculture.

He was also assisted with his farms land preparation and ginger planting materials in 2017.

“We have been planting dalo and cassava and through the 2015 land preparation assistance, we were able to expand our dalo and cassava production,” Mr Kuila said.

“I have been really fortunate having to receive the assistance from the Ministry of Agriculture.

“From the revenue collected from the harvest of ginger and dalo through these programmes, we managed to buy a single cab worth $8,000 and a twin cab worth $10,000.”

Mr Kuila says his estimated annual revenue totals from  $17,000 to $20,000 a year for dalo.

For cassava, he estimates that it is from $12,000  to $15,000, and $35,000 from his poultry farm.

Mr Kuila says the products not picked by middle dealers are sold at the market.

“I wasn’t really depending on the assistance but it came as a great blessing and we are thankful to the Ministry for recognising and motivating us,” he said.

Apart from farming, the Taira, Vanuavatu native does welding and is a mechanic.

“We want to continue with our ginger farming, even though our initial plans have been achieved in the establishment of the farm, our passion is still in farming and we will continue toiling it,” he said.

“The farm has enabled us to tackle the hardships of life, starting from nothing to having everything we ever needed and we are grateful to the land.”

Feedback:  maraia.vula@fijisun.com.fj

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