Island News

Farmer strives for better days

Written By : Sun Fiji Newsroom. With all the hype surrounding the sugar industry in the country, 63-year-old Brij Mohan of Nakama Settlement in Labasa has set his eyes on
06 Sep 2008 12:00

Written By : Sun Fiji Newsroom. With all the hype surrounding the sugar industry in the country, 63-year-old Brij Mohan of Nakama Settlement in Labasa has set his eyes on other forms of agricultural production.
Nakama Settlement in Labasa is a well-known sugar-cane producing area in the North and most farmers there have been planting sugar-cane since starting their own farms.
However for Brij, it is now time to diversify into other crops as money earned from sugar-cane alone is not enough to sustain the family’s needs.
“I have been planting sugar-cane after my father passed on these 10 acres of sugar-cane to me and I have been continuing the cycle but lately I have discovered like many farmers that the price of living is just too high,” he explained.
“That is why I have diversified my style of farming into other crops like assorted vegetables and fruit trees,” he said. Brij has also been earmarked under the Sugar-cane Based Crop Diversification program which is an initiative by the Ministry of Primary Industries whereby farmers are assisted in pulse planting programs.
“It is a very innovative approach to what we are doing and I am thankful that the Ministry has chosen me as one of the farmers to undergo this program,” he smiled.
The program is a joint venture between the Research and Extension Division of the Ministry who will be assisting and monitoring the farmer throughout the land preparation till the harvesting stages.
With three children who are also assisting him on the farm, Brij says that pulse planting has really opened up many opportunities for them as a family.
“We never took into consideration the many advantages of pulse planting and now that we are actually doing it, I cannot wait for the harvesting period,” he exclaimed.
Brij with the assistance of officials from the Ministry has planted urd, bitter-gourd, cow-pea, pigeon-pea and eggplant on land that is situated right beside his sugar-cane farm.
The Ministry is also going to be distributing him with Hawaiian Pawpaw seeds as another plot will be set up on his farm.
Agricultural Assistant Premila Singh said that this program is solely for farmers who are planting sugar-cane as their base crop.
“We want to create awareness among the farmers in sugar-cane belt areas that there are other options in farming for them that they can diversify into to help them during the short term,” she explained.
“We are encouraging them to keep on planting sugar-cane but at the same time to plant other crops so that they are able to earn more for their families,” said Premila.
The Ministry has been introducing varieties of pulses over the years in its bid to boost local production and exports. There is a huge demand for pulses in overseas markets and the Ministry is urging all farmers to take advantage of the demand but to also plant pulses for food security purposes.
Currently majority of the pulses consumed locally are imported and the Ministry is working hard to set up these programs in sugar-cane districts all over the country so that more farmers are introduced to planting pulses. Since taking up farming as a profession, Brij has met so many challenges along the way that has only made him stronger.
“No one was working and we did not earn weekly or fortnightly pay but the money that we got from the farm was enough to sustain us and we are still doing it today,” he smiled.
So much so that they slowly built their own farming kingdom and this has managed to establish them in terms of food security.
“I am glad to say that we have grown from strength to strength and my closely knit family is supporting me and the role that I have to play as the breadwinner of the family,” said the proud Brij.Brij like all farmers around the country has great respect for time and says that he has programmed himself and his activities according to the time.
“We have reached a stage now around the world that food prices are rising and people are fighting for food everywhere.”
“This would not have happened if everyone around the world had taken serious thought and planning on farming for a living,” he added.
“As for me and my family, the current program of diversifying into other crops has really worked out well and we are looking forward to our first harvest,” he smiled.
Brij went on to say that planting for food security has never been more serious and more people around the towns are beginning to get the idea.
“Now land that was once filled with flowers of all sorts is filled with vegetables of all varieties and I am happy to see that change because it is important for everyone in the near future,” he explained.
As for his existing vegetable farm, Brij has been supplying his vegetables to the local market in Labasa Town.
“We are doing well and I have remained positive over the years on the future of my farm,” he smiled.
There are more plans for Brij in the near future and he is looking at planting fruit trees as well like hybrid mangoes and citrus.
“I am gathering all the information that I can from the agriculture officials and I hope that soon enough I will be able to set up my own orchard,” he laughed. But the diligent farmer says that he is taking things one day at a time.
“I seriously hope that people around the country are bracing themselves for the hard times ahead and what better way to do that than planting your own food,” he advised.

By Kuini Waqasavou – Ministry of Primary Industries

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