Island News

Mikaele’s passion for farming

Written By : KUINI WAQASAVOU MINISTRY OF PRIMARY INDUSTRIES. Thirty one -year-old Mikaele Tola of Nadaro Village in Vugalei, Tailevu considers himself lucky to be part of the workforce that
16 May 2009 12:00

Written By : KUINI WAQASAVOU MINISTRY OF PRIMARY INDUSTRIES. Thirty one -year-old Mikaele Tola of Nadaro Village in Vugalei, Tailevu considers himself lucky to be part of the workforce that put up the glorious MHCC and Midcity building in the heart of Suva.
Mikaele took up the offer after a recruitment drive for the need of money.
For him, being part of the labour force that painstakingly put the city landmarks together will always be a part of history for him and one that he will be proud of for the rest of his life.
But after the building was completed, he returned to his home in Nadaro after several disputes with his former employers.
He decided to take up another passion in life and that is farming.
A village by contrast Nadaro is renowned for its sweet pineapples that grace the roadside during the crops season. Root crop is another produce that have been developing over the years for the Tailevu areas as the lush vegetation and nutritive soil makes it easier to grow.
Coming from a hardworking family background and always striving in farming, Mikaele decided that it was best for him to join his father in their farming venture and to make use of the arable but idle land that was lying a few miles from their family home.
Their Mataqali land is approximately 200 acres and most of it was bush land and forests before the family decided to do something about it.
“It was quite a challenge for us and I believe that most of the land was untouched since the creation of earth,” he smiled.
Mikaele wasted no time and travelled to the agriculture office in Korovou, Tailevu to see if he could be assisted in any way.
The passion to work hard and to persevere in anything that he did surpassed all obstacles and he made sure that he returned to his home with ample information on how best to move on in his newfound farming venture.
After a few months, whilst already moving on with his vegetable production, Mikaele decided to seek further financial assistance to help their family farm advance to the next level.
“I was very lucky, because I was working closely with the agricultural officials and they saw that my farm was testimony enough for me to receive further assistance.”
A project proposal was drawn up by the Senior Agricultural Assistant Filimoni Kilawekana for the group to be assisted under the Rural and Outer Island Project (ROI).
“Their project is dalo based among other commodities and is titled Delainarocake Dalo Project and belongs to the family and it was interesting to note that all hard work and intensive labour was done by the Mataqali members themselves,” explained Mr Kilawekana.
The group was then given about $15,000 at the end of 2008 which was the funding by ROI for land preparation works as well as the improvement of the farm road that leads to the farm.
“12,000 dalo suckers was also given to kick start their commercial dalo venture and with their own inputs, a five acre piece of land which used to be forests and shrubs was transformed into a dalo haven,” explained Mr Kilawekana.
Now looking back, to all that they had been through in the first few weeks of land preparation, Mikaele can only smile and say that it has been a challenge all the way.
“I have to thank my father, who even though is ageing, is still hard at work on the farm just like the rest of us and still trying to perfect the farm,” he smiled
Group members are still practicing the solesolevaki program of doing things on the farm which is an ancient practice passed on from generation to generation in working together as a community or village.
“We can have turns in a week in planting or just looking after the dalo project because the members also have their own individual farms,” explained Mikaele.
“We also have to put aside time for the religious and social obligations that are often held in the village because these are the norms of living in a village and we have to abide by them,” said Mikaele.
As the manager of the farm, Mikaele makes sure that purchases of chemicals and fertiliser are bought as well as ample farming tools during planting are used.
“It’s quite a responsibility and I know that for the past few months of this year, I have lived up to the expectations of my father and other family members in keeping good record of all that is planted on the farm and how much is expected to be harvested come the harvesting period in June this year,” he explained. But so far, the group’s short term crops are rolling into the markets and for the past few weeks, they sold about 1000 bundles of long bean and cabbage.
The hardworking crew also harvested about half an acre of watermelon which sold at $1.30 per kilogramme.
“These short term crops are earning us a lot of profit and we can’t wait to harvest our dalo which is expected to be about 12 tonnes.”
Mikaele said that they are aiming for the export markets for their Tausala variety of dalo and as for the other hybrid varieties; it is being earmarked for the local markets.
“Our planting program is still continuing and we are hoping to fill in the whole of our 200 acres with root crops, vegetables and fruit trees and what was once only trees and bush land will be turned into a farming haven,” smiled Mikaele.
Nothing has been able to stop the Delainarocake Dalo Project from forging ahead in their agricultural activities till today and they believe that nothing can stop them from reaching their full potential in both the local and export markets.
Mr Kilawekana says that many more farmers have been assisted under the ROI programme in the Tailevu areas and they have been utilising their land well in terms of agricultural production which has been increasing since the flood earlier in the year.
ROI is an integrated market driven agricultural assistance programme targeting progressive farmers, farmer groups or agribusiness in crop, livestock or value added production that meet market demand.
It is about the development of sustainable farming and agro based enterprises that meet the market demand. An enterprise can take a range of structural forms, including individuals; partnerships; households; special interest groups (e.g. youth, women, church); a registered co-operative; a registered company; or a traditional grouping e.g. mataqali, tokatoka and village.
Individuals, farmer groups or agribusiness operators that would like to be assisted under the programme will need to consult with the relevant agriculture locality officers and go through the required project identification processes before the submission of project proposals to the Ministry of Agriculture.
Submissions for ROI funding will be entertained from individual farmers, group farmers or agribusinesses involved in crop, livestock and value adding production that are targeted at meeting the demand of the whole supply chain i.e. from production to market. All submissions for ROI funding will have to be submitted in the form of project proposals, following the standard ROI project proposal format that is available with the Ministry of Agriculture & Primary Industries (MAPI) locality offices.

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