Island News

Backyard farmer still going strong

Written By : SUN FIJI NEWSROOM. Old age should never be a barrier for anything in this life and according to 72-year-old Dutch Ram Lakhan of Nadera in Suva, it
13 Sep 2008 12:00

Written By : SUN FIJI NEWSROOM. Old age should never be a barrier for anything in this life and according to 72-year-old Dutch Ram Lakhan of Nadera in Suva, it should be the starting of all good things in life.
The ever friendly father of six children and granddad to nine says that for him, life has become sweeter and even though he does not have that same exuberance that he had way back, he is smiling his way through.
Dutch has so many reasons to smile through life and one of them is his prized vegetable garden sitting in his own backyard.
Since leaving his cane farm in Rakiraki so many years back, Dutch has begun his own farming venture in his own backyard in his Suva home.
“The small and confined space that we live in here in Nadera sometimes gets to me because I know that I can do much more, but then again I know that I am providing enough for my family,” he smiled.
“If we look at the big picture, farming would involve commercial farming of dalo, fruits, vegetables, sugar-cane, dairy and livestock but what I am practicing here in my backyard is the subsistence form of farming,” he smiled.
Dutch has been planting a variety of vegetables, fruit trees like pawpaw, guava, mango and root-crops like cassava, dalo, kumala and uvi.
“A lot of my neighbors come to buy my vegetables and I appreciate that because it is also some means of providing for my family.”
Nowadays Dutch does not sell his vegetables from door to door but people come to his backyard garden.
“I just love my backyard garden and because of the tender love and care that I give to it, it has been providing me with the best vegetables and crops and my family is proud of me for that,” he smiled.
Explaining about the change from a sugar-cane to a backyard farmer, Dutch said that there is a vast contrast.
“Looking after a sugar-cane farm is quite a strenuous task and if you are not up for it, then it would be a difficult task as the fields are very big and the climate suitable for sugar-cane is very hot,” he explained.
“I coped with sugar-cane farming for most of my youthful life and now that I have been planting vegetables and rootcrops in my backyard, I can say that I am more relaxed,” he smiled.
“But I know of several sugar-cane farmers who are much older than me that are still continuing with sugar-cane farming and I hope that the country appreciates their efforts because if not for them, our sugar-cane industry would have vanished a long time ago,” he explained earnestly.
The industrious gardener went on to say that most of his time is spent in his backyard and members of his family have to call him for meals at times because he tends to lose track of time when spending time with his garden.
“I know that at the moment citizens of this country are facing difficult times with trying to provide for the family with everything that’s happening around us, but I would like to encourage urban dwellers to think of starting up their own backyard gardens.”
“I know for a fact that farming has been looked down upon by the upcoming generation as they tend to take everything handed to them on a silver platter but they should be taught to value the land,” he said.
“The land holds so many good things and it’s a source of life for those who grasp the opportunity with both hands,” he added.
Dutch says that many schools have taken up agricultural science as one of their subjects but says that he feels not enough is being done to properly drive the message of farming to the students.
“From what I can gather, students nowadays look forward to becoming doctors, nurses, teachers and so forth but hardly anyone wants to get into farming as a profession,” he said.
“Just imagine if there were more people that took up farming on a full- time basis, the agricultural industry would be thriving and people of this country would be eating from their own farms,” he smiled thoughtfully.
“But I guess we cannot change the mindsets of these young people, but we can only hope that more is done to improve the agricultural sector of this country.”
“At the moment, wherever I go I hear people complaining that times are getting hard, food prices are increasing and so forth but I just laugh it off and tell them that they should plant their own food so that they do not complain a lot,” he laughed.
Dutch is willing to continue with his garden as long as his health permits him.
“I know for a fact that I have a long way to go because what I plant, I have been eating and I have been living a healthy lifestyle which costs me nothing,” he smiled.
Dutch hopes to see more gardens propping up in settlements around the country and says that once people see for themselves the benefits, they will not give up on farming-just like he is experiencing.
Such spirit from all Fiji citizens throughout the year will help achieve the Ministry’s vision of a revitalized agriculture sector providing food and income for all.

By Kuini Waqasavou- Ministry of Primary Industries

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