Island News

Wise rises from rags to riches

Written By : WAME BAUTOLU. Not everyday opportunities come knocking at your doorsteps but for Waisake Tikoi opportunity greeted him at his plantation. One afternoon two years ago, Mr Tikoi
02 Aug 2008 12:00

image Written By : WAME BAUTOLU. Not everyday opportunities come knocking at your doorsteps but for Waisake Tikoi opportunity greeted him at his plantation.
One afternoon two years ago, Mr Tikoi was working in his plantation and at the same time he was nursing a lovo (earth oven) which would be dinner for his family.
The Wainibuka lad was planting along the road to Denarau where hundreds of tourists went past everyday.
Just as soon as he was unearthing the feast, a couple of tourist stopped and watched anxiously as the young Wailevu man from Wainibuka carefully uncovered the food.
They stood watching the young lad uncover the food and to his surprise they commended his efforts and asked if he could do the same thing for them the next day in which they were willing to pay.
“They gave me money to purchase items for the lovo and that night I don’t think I slept as I thought about what to do the following day. I felt running away with the money but I decided to give it shot,” Mr Tikoi said.
The farm belonged to his mother’s land owning unit in Sikituru and he had been working on his farm ever since leaving school.
Not only was he a full time farmer he also landed odd jobs and sometimes he would stand in front of a well known handicraft shop in Nadi dressed as a traditional Fijian warrior greeting everyone that entered the premises.
From the day he displayed his fine skills in preparing the lovo he made up his mind to make a living out of it and now he runs his own business called “Wise Village Tours and Lovo Feast” which was registered in January this year.
“Now I’m making lovo and taking tourist around Sikituru and nearby villages for sight seeing tours. At times I climb coconuts for my visitors if they want but mostly I take them around showing them the simple Fijian way of life and how to prepare a simple lovo feast,” Mr Tikoi said.
When he started this business, he admits he was quite rusty speaking in English and communicating to his visitors was hard but as time went by he has grown enough confidence to start his own business.
Now Mr Tikoi could earn $500 to $700 a day just by entertaining tourist by his lovo pit or showing them around the village and his business is improving everyday.
When he started two years ago he charged each person $45.00 in which they would watch or help him make the lovo.
“After it has been buried, I take them around for a tour around the village and when the lovo is ready we usually uncover it together and feast just beside the pit in a traditional old Fijian style where the food is served on banana leaves.”
In a day he could get seven to 15 tourists who are all eager to learn about the Fijian way of life.
Despite not knowing much about business, he had applied for a license at the beginning of the year and to his surprise, the Attorney General’s office had approved within a week.
“I couldn’t believe my luck because this usually take months to process and I would like to thank them for making things easy for people like myself who are trying to make ends meet,” Mr Tikoi said.
He said filing out an application form was tough but he had managed with a help of few friends.
“I was going through my application form hardly understanding anything written on it so I approached some members of the group with me to help me fill up the form. To my surprise three of them were qualified accountants and they helped me fill the form without any hesitation.”
Now with things heading towards the right direction for him, he plans to see his motherly village develop from the benefits of tourism.
He stressed not much development has happen in Sikituru Village ever since tourism started blooming in Nadi Town and he plans to expand his business within the village so that everyone would benefit.
“Right now all my relatives in the village love the idea of their village being one a tourist destination and some of them are benefiting from the business which was just registered early this year,” Mr Tikoi said.
His uncle drives a minivan which transports visitors from Hotels in Denarau to Sikituru Village where Mr Tikoi waits while preparing lovo.
This activity usually occurs in the evening where visitors are being brought in to witness how a lovo is being done and tours the village while waiting for the food to be ready.
Some of the young men from Sikituru who usually sing for tourist around Denarau Island usually come in a help the 32-year-old by singing to the visitors as they enjoy their meal.
“A number of my relatives are benefiting from what I’m doing and some of them are earning money part-time by helping me out. I have another uncle who takes the tourist around the village and explains to them about the traditional kava ceremony and does this for free but I always insist that he takes the money I offer.”
The 32-year-old said the break in his life came about while he was up and about enjoying what he does everyday.
Now earning more money than he could ever imagine, he said that his plantation is still close to his heart because that was where his gift was being discovered.
“Despite being busy all day I still find time to work on my plantation early in the morning before continuing with my daily routine. I don’t think that I will ever leave my plantation alone because it has become a part of me,” Mr Tikoi said.
He plants variety of roots crops like cassava, yams, dalo and also vegetables like cabbage and tomatoes.
He has also managed to rope in a few hotel clients who buy fresh vegetables direct from his garden and after working on his plantation he delivers vegetables to the resorts.
“From my visit to resorts each morning supplying vegetables I usually get the number of visitors who wish to experience the lovo treat. Leaving with the numbers, I know exactly how much food to buy and what to prepare for my visitors,” Mr Tikoi said.
At the moment he is working with the eco-tourism team from the Ministry of Environment who will advice him on how he could develop his business with minimum impact on his surroundings.
So far he believes he is taking the right steps to further developing his business but he also listens to advice from other people.
“I am thankful for having my family around me who assist me with the everyday decision making and their ideas now started to turn this business into a success,” Mr Tikoi said.

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