Island News

Leaving the classroom for the farm

Written By : KUINI WAQASAVOU MINISTRY OF PRIMARY INDUSTRIES . Forgoing his studies to take up farming was an option that 28-year-old Jone Liu thought of long and hard and
01 Aug 2009 12:00

Written By : KUINI WAQASAVOU MINISTRY OF PRIMARY INDUSTRIES . Forgoing his studies to take up farming was an option that 28-year-old Jone Liu thought of long and hard and one decision that he will never regret.
The Matuku lad was a foundation student at the University of the South Pacific but was asked by his father to forgo his studies and help him on their dalo farm in Bureni, Waibau in Naitasiri.
At first, Jone thought that he had just committed the biggest mistake in his life by adhering to his father’s request, but now he is thanking all his lucky stars for following his father’s footsteps.
“It was a big change for me being away from the classroom and around people my own age to working on my own most times as my father is becoming very ill nowadays,” said Jone.
“Come to think of it, I am enjoying farming so much now that I find it difficult to adapt back to my old friends and mates in the urban areas,” he smiled.
The family farm is situated on slopes overlooking the road leading to Naitasiri and land preparation itself was a major challenge.
“It was all forests and in some parts of the land, manpower was not enough as machines had to clear the land,” explained Jone.
After seeking advice from the Agriculture officials in Nausori, Jone was granted an assistance of $15,000 from the Ministry’s Rural and Outer Island Programme (ROI) for clearing five acres of land.
The long term objective of ROI is to enhance the livelihoods of people in the rural areas and outer islands of Fiji. The immediate purpose is to increase market access opportunities and services that will enable beneficiaries in the rural areas and outer islands to exploit those opportunities.
According to Senior Agriculture Officer (Naitasiri) Peni Rika, the assistance was awarded to Jone as he met all requirements and had been operating for years without any Government assistance.
“After an assessment was carried out on the farm, a project proposal was drawn up by the agriculture officials, which was then submitted and approved by the Government,” explained Mr Rika.
After receiving word that his application has been approved, Jone knew that everything that he was doing till this point in time was on the right path.
“The assistance could not have come at a better time, as we were desperate to start planting on the five acres that were filled with lots of big trees,” smiled Jone.
Land clearing began in February of this year and Jone wasted no time in working out his planting program for the five acres of land.
“I made it a point to be on the farm every day except Sunday’s and it was just great seeing the plantation begin to take form after the land was cleared of all the big trees,” said Jone.
Currently Jone has about 31,000 dalo plants on the ground and is targeting both the local and overseas markets.
After seeing the endless opportunities that farming for a living produced, Jone knew in his heart that toiling the land is where he belongs.
Asked on whether he would love to return to the classroom at some point in time, he shrugged his shoulders and said that farming is all he needs to make a living and provide for his family.
Even though farming comes with lot of obstacles, Jone is determined more than ever to make it big in the business and to develop into other areas of agriculture like vegetable production.
“I know that most of my neighbors are producing a lot of vegetables in both the main and off season and that is something that I will also do once I am well established in the dalo business,” he smiled.
Jone says that his venture was made even easier through field visits and technical advice from the agricultural experts that paid him a visit quite often.
“They often visited me on the farm and gave me tips on the technicalities of farming and after practicing it on the farm, I found that the results were excellent in terms of quality of the crop as well as the quantity that I would often harvest,” he added.
Jone is looking ahead and his long-term project is to diversify into other areas as well like prawn farming and fish farming as well.
“The sky is the limit and I know that with all the blessings that we have been getting from the farm, we are indeed on our way to more prosperity and rewards,” said Jone confidently.
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).
The programme is not about handouts to beneficiaries, but is about empowering them with a view to future sustainability of the farm or agribusiness enterprises.
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.

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