Island News

From cop to crop – Fizat breaks ground

Written By : SAMANTHA RINA. He worked as a Police officer for ten years but the calling of the farm was too great to ignore. Fizat Allam Khan, 40, had
25 May 2009 12:00

image Written By : SAMANTHA RINA. He worked as a Police officer for ten years but the calling of the farm was too great to ignore.
Fizat Allam Khan, 40, had applied for the position of a Special Constable in the Force in 1989 but resigned ten years later and decided to concentrate on the development of his farm.
More than ten years after his resignation from the Force, Mr Khan says the sacrifice has been worth it.
Mr Khan resides at a settlement called Marasa which is located in the interior of Nadi.
He said the rewards he got from tilling the land were far greater than any job could ever offer.
As a youngster, he attended Swami Vivekananda College and Nadi Muslim College with his four siblings. He is the second eldest child in the family.
“We usually got up at 5.30am and were faced with the grueling task of walking six kilometers just to get to the main road before 6am to board the bus that would take us to school,” he said.
After school, Mr Khan and his siblings were expected to help out with chores and farm work at home.
Reflecting on his childhood and school years, Mr Khan said the life led by the children of today is a far cry from his experiences in the past.
“My children are fortunate that we have a vehicle which I use to transport them to and from school everyday. Back in those days, we never complained when we walked because even as a Form Six student, I didn’t have many books to carry,” he said.
“Today school children have more books to carry and sometimes I think the books they carry weigh more than the children do.”
Mr Khan does a variety of farming including sugarcane, pineapple and vegetables.
Of the three, he focuses most on his pineapple farm because of a contract with Air Terminal Services.
“Each morning after breakfast, I tend to the pineapple farm which is about 15 to 18 acres. I spray chemicals to prevent pests from ruining the pineapples and also to destroy weeds,” he said.
He said he only tends to his sugarcane farm if he has spare time on his hands.
“Nowadays owning a sugarcane farm is more difficult and expensive. Firstly because the price of sugarcane is very low and then there a lot of expenses incurred by sugarcane farmers especially in the process of harvesting and carting cane to the mills,” he said.
“I have also noticed that we have to source labourers from far places because the young people of today are now more interested in getting jobs instead of farming.”
He said cane farmers often spent thousands of dollars hiring cane gangs to cut and harvest cane from their farms and added to the expenses was the cost of cartage which was mostly decided by the lorry operators.
“At the moment, sugarcane has very little value. Many sugarcane farmers who lived in this area have relocated because their leases were not renewed so it is very difficult to find labourers. Luckily I have managed to secure about three labourers for the harvest this year,” he said.
Where his sugarcane farm would require about 14 or 15 labourers during harvest period, only three labourers were required to harvest his pineapple farm.
Mr Khan said the many difficulties involved with sugarcane farming had caused him to focus instead on his pineapple farm.
He also does vegetable farming but this depended on the seasons for the various vegetables he planted.
He once had 100 goats on his farm but had to get rid of them when they spoilt his pineapple farm. He now has a herd of 35 cattle a few roosters and hens.
“I do regret leaving my job as a Police officer especially because I was in town everyday and it was relaxing but at the end of the day, I prefer the peace and quiet of my farm,” he said.
In front of the family’s home is a cluster of pine trees owned by the mataqali Vuniyasi that also owns the land leased by Mr Khan.
His lease expires in two years and he admitted he was not worried about where they would relocate should the farm lease not be renewed.
Families in the area are fortunate that a spring in the ground supplies them with much-needed water. And electricity is sourced from fuel-operated generators or solar panes.
Mr Khan said life was not difficult for them despite the long distance from the town because they had a vehicle and visited Nadi town everyday to make purchases.
“It is about 17 kilometers from the highway to home and we are lucky to have a vehicle. A vehicle is essential when living in a place like this because it is so remote,” he said.
Another advantage, he said, was that the family never ran out of food supplies or had the need to buy vegetables from the market because they also planted vegetables and food was in abundant supply.
Mr Khan and his family also live with an elder brother and his family as well as his parents.
“My father has been a cane farmer all his life. We moved here when I was only two months old. My father said the land where we previously farmed was not good because there were too many rocks,” he said.
The family has been living in Marasa Settlement for about forty years now after relocating in 1968.
“From experience, I believe that if anyone has a farm, it is better to concentrate on the farm then to look for a job because there are people out there who do not have farms and they are the ones who need jobs because they do not have a farm to fall back on if they lose their jobs,” he said.
Mr Khan has four children and with the second term of school already underway, he now returns to his daily routine of transporting his children to and from school every morning and afternoon.




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