Island News

Duavata Youths seek empowerment in toiling the land

Written By : KUINI WAQASAVOU Ministry of Primary Industries. Youths in rural areas around the country have a lot of options of what they can do with their lives, like
08 Aug 2009 12:00

image Written By : KUINI WAQASAVOU Ministry of Primary Industries. Youths in rural areas around the country have a lot of options of what they can do with their lives, like taking up agricultural production or fishing and even handicrafts in the remote islands.
Most youths in rural areas have taken up initiatives in setting up youth groups and taking part in activities that will raise more awareness on their status as youths as well as helping them earn an income.
Rukuruku Village, Ovalau in the Lomaiviti Group is one of the many villages in provinces around the country that formed their own youth group so as to help them uplift the standard of living in the village and assist them in taking ownership of their land.
Apisai Baraki, 55 years old is the leader of the youth group and has been leading them over the past few years and teaching mostly school-dropouts, the value and richness of the land.
With 14 members in the group, Apisai says that the youths have been turning heads with their farm production especially the dalo and yaqona production as it is their main income earner.
“Since we have so many youths in the village, we decided to split into two groups this year, so a few of the young men have joined the new group called Veivueti while the rest have stayed on,” said Apisai.
“We decided this so that both groups could work out for themselves the values of the vanua, church and matanitu or Government systems that are in place and to work towards achieving all these values which in turn will make members of the group respectable citizens of this beloved country,” explained Apisai.
Both Duavata and Veivueti Youth groups have been consistent in their planting programmes and both meet in the village hall once a month to discuss their progress and challenges that they face in their farms as well as families.
As their farm progressed, their knowledge of farming also developed and Apisai says that most of them have been adapting well to the various skills and technology of planting dalo and yaqona especially for the export market.
“We have been working closely with the Agriculture officials based in Levuka and the various spacing methods, timely planting and good husbandry practices that we have been taught has really been paying off in terms of the quality of produce that is being harvested,” explained Apisai.
Since the group started, they had been progressing well without assistance from anyone and they just developed with a determined mindset.
“Land preparation proved to be a huge obstacle for us as most of our productive land is situated up in the hills and when we first began, we had to camp there for weeks to try and get the land cleared of all big trees.”
In visiting the Duavata farm up in the hills, agricultural Fieldman, Mr. Sakapo Noa said that it was quite a difficult task for the members.
“They were facing a lot of challenges up in the hills, but they kept with their planting programme and were progressing fast,” said Mr Noa.
After discussions with the members, Mr Noa drew up a project paper for the group whereby they could at least purchase chainsaws, and roofing iron for their makeshift house up in the hills through Government’s Rural and Outer Island Programme (ROI).
The group waited patiently for the assistance but did not want to depend on it too much but continued with their planting program.
“We were still carrying out land preparations works with only man-power but it paid off in the end when we finally received assistance from Government under the ROI Programme,” said Apisai.
The group received their much awaited for chainsaws, roofing iron as well as fertiliser, knapsack sprayers and chemicals.
The group is still very active in using the traditional methods of working together as a team called ‘solesolevaki’ and take turns in working on their youth farm as well as their individual farms so that no member is left behind in their quest for building better lives for themselves.
Members of the group are taking turns in camping up in their farm-house and looking after their farm.
Other members in the village also take turns in community work as well as taking part in church activities.
Mr Noa said that the Duavata members have been supplying their dalo to export agents that often visit their villages and buying at farm-gate prices.
“Dalo prices vary from time to time according to the supply and demand and that is why the Duavata members have been planting their dalo in thousands so as to be consistent in their supply,” said Mr Noa.
There are future plans for the group like building houses for their members so that they are not always reliant on their elderly parents.
“We want them to have a sense of ownership in whatever they do, so we have managed to build two houses already for two of the members, and we will continue till all members have their own homes,” explained Apisai.
As for agricultural development, the group is hoping to start vegetable production to feed the small town of Levuka as well as supplying to nearby resorts and lodges.
“We have been discussing with agriculture officials and things are in the pipeline for us to start vegetable production as well,” smiled Apisai.
Apisai hopes that youths of Rukuruku living in the urban centres and still hunting for jobs, could return to the village and join them.
“Life in the village has much more to offer than what meets the eye, and I am hoping that one day, they will remember their village and return to take up farming.”

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