Island News

Perseverance pays for Rewa farmers

Written By : Nacanieli Takele. They did not wait in vain. For some of the nine farmers in Rewa who started dairy farming way back in the 1970’s, the recent
05 Jul 2008 12:00

image Written By : Nacanieli Takele. They did not wait in vain. For some of the nine farmers in Rewa who started dairy farming way back in the 1970’s, the recent installation of the Ratu Alipate Milk Collection Centre in Burebasaga to receive their milk on daily basis was worth all the years of waiting.
The days of worrying about where to sell their milk are over. The market that they have been waiting for has come to them and they could not hide their feelings.
One of the nine farmers, Maikali Vuloko said words cannot express how happy they were at the opening of the Milk Collection Centre. One can clearly see the smiles etched on the faces of the other farmers every time they looked at the collection facility.
Vuloko said the opening of the Milk Collection Centre was the like a new dawn for the Rewa farmers.
“For years we have been carting our milk to Waidalice in Tailevu about 30 kilometres from here and we were sharing the cost of hiring carriers”, said Vuloko.
“It costs $180 to $215 a week to cart milk to Waidalice and the opening of this centre will take away that cost and it will be huge load off our shoulders”.
Dairy farming in Burebasaga started in the early 1970’s with ghee production while some of the more enterprising farmers took their milk by boat to sell at the Nausori Town. The construction of the road was a huge relief to them as it made their town clients much more accessible and cheaper to hire mini vans to take their milk.
Vuloko said that they viewed the construction of milk collection centres in certain areas in the Central Division with interest in the hope that they too would one day have a facility in their area.
“That day has materialised and we are so grateful to the government for making our dreams come true.
The installation of this centre will provide potential farmers in this area to raise a few cows to produce milk for the centre and add to their family income”.
According to the acting Director for Animal Health & Production Division Mr. Shiu Chand, the Ministry of Primary Industries has over the years been monitoring the progress of the nine Rewa farmers. The nine farmers included four Indigenous and five Indo Fijians.
“Their interest in taking dairy farming seriously began after an awareness campaign that government did in 2004 under its smallholder Agricultural Diversification Program”, Mr. Chand explained.
“That was when they decided to form the Duavata Farmers Association and supply milk to the Rewa Cooperative Dairy Company (RCDC) through the Waidalice Milk Collection Centre.”
Some of these farmers had been supplying fresh milk to Nausori Town before they switched to RCDC”.
Only Vuloko had a valid license to sell milk to the RCDC but through negotiations with RCDC, MPI and his neighbours, all nine farmers were able to use the same license to sell to RCDC through the Waidalice Milk Collection Centre.
“The Association was named “Duavata” to describe how the group members had come together as a united force to achieve common goals in building our dairy business. We were are all born and raised in Burebasaga and know each other very well”, Vuloko explained.
The Duavata Farmers Association is a fine example of how people of different ethnic background had come together for a common cause and are making a success out of their business endeavours.
This has been a strength that government had noticed way back in 2004 and has been taking the necessary steps to nurture and support them in their dairy business.
Mr. Chand said that the assistance provided to the nine farmers in 2004 included the construction of a dairy shed, pasture establishment with fodder banks and fencing material.
“They were also assisted with water tanks, polythene pipes and fittings to improve water supply and training programmes to improve their knowledge and skills in managing their dairy business.
Through the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the farmers were assisted with milking cows and a chaff cutter”.
Mr. Chand pointed out that the farmers were very receptive to assistance and advise given to them and for this reason government had been very keen on assisting them further.
“This new collection facility is a mark of government’s confidence and commitment to help the farmers”.
Mr. Chand went on to say that since 2005, the nine farmers had been increasing their yearly milk production supplied to RCDC.
“In 2005, they collectively supplied 24,149 litres of milk. This increased by 188 percent in 2006 to 69,652 litres and by a further 4 percent in 2007 to 72,523 litres. To June this year, the farmers have supplied 32,093 litres of milk”.
“I am confident that with this Milk Collection Centre located at their doorsteps, the farmers will step up their milk supplies and also provide the opportunity to more farmers in this area to take up dairy farming.
The Ministry’s Livestock Officers are available to provide technical assistance to potential farmers who wish to raise a few cows to supply milk to the collection centre and add to their family income.
“This is the smallholder concept that government introduced in 2004 and I am sure this is the way forward for the dairy industry in Fiji and that is to start small, consolidate and expand and so on”.
Mr. Chand said the Duavata Farmers Association is living proof that the concept can work and the opportunity is there for farmers to make a living for themselves and their family. – Ministry of Primary Industries

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