Island News

Lovoni youths dig deep for success

Written By : SUN FIJI NEWSROOM. Lovoni Village sits right in the middle of the island of Ovalau and is surrounded by mountains and hills that look amazing all year
12 Sep 2009 12:00

Written By : SUN FIJI NEWSROOM. Lovoni Village sits right in the middle of the island of Ovalau and is surrounded by mountains and hills that look amazing all year round.
Life in the village has been bliss for villagers as they have the wealth from the land to live on.
When dusk settles into the village, one can hear the loud chatter and laughter of young men returning home after a hard day on the farm.
This is home to the Nasaumatua Youth Group, who has made it their priority to farm for a living.
Youth advisor, Mr Jone Masi Naucukidi says that farming for a living was an option that the youths took up because it was passed down through generations by their forefathers.
“The initiative to form a youth group began in the early 1980s and the trend continues today,” he explained.
With 32 members in the group, activities on the farm are rotated equally among members with each of them helping out in all their farms.
It is similar to gang members during sugar cane harvesting season.
“We use the traditional way of farming called solesolevaki (group work) and this is where everyone work in one farm one day and rotates among all members in the remaining days,” said Jone.
‘Solesolevaki’ is when people work together as a community or a village to make the work easier and faster. This is practiced in most Fijian villages during farming campaigns or village clean-ups.”
The group plants dalo, cassava, vudi, banana, and vegetables.
Yaqona is their main income earner.
“With their individual block, and everyone pitching in to help each other, we have seen great rewards through this farming system.”
“The land is shared among all the youths, but we always say that whoever is stronger, plants more and earns a lot more so with that in mind, we have done well,” said Jone.
Every month, the group meets to discuss challenges and progress that they had made and strategies were mapped out to solve problems.
Group member, 34-year-old Isireli Naucukidi, said farming for the group had been hard at times.
“That is why we are so grateful for the assistance that we have received from Government with the construction of our road,” he smiled.
The group was assisted under the Rural and Outer Island Programme (ROI) in the third quarter of 2008.
“We were given materials for our farm house up in the hills and we would camp there for days to farm before returning to the village,” explained Isireli.
The long term objective of ROI is to enhance livelihoods of people in rural areas.
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).
“Each family in the village has their own yaqona plantation and they have been living on this income for years as this is the only source of income that supports our children through school and puts sugar on the table.”
Isireli added that farming was not something that was taught to them but they were born into the farming system.
“It was something that we saw our parents doing when we were young and it had been passed down through generations,” he smiled.
But with every success story, complications have been met along the way and this has not been any different for the Nasaumatua Youths of Lovoni.
“Bearing in mind the fact that most of the youths are school dropouts and with the knowledge that they gained in school, they have been encouraged from home to consider applying for jobs in the urban areas thus pressure from home is to be expected,” he explained.
“Parents have had to realize that the greatest wealth that anyone could ever get is from the land and that is what the youths had been doing,” he smiled.
“The time factor is very important and these youths have had to learn by themselves the art of managing time well because as they say ‘time is money’ and it is when you use time well, that you gain a lot.”
“Consuming too much yaqona will cause laziness and when it is time for the farmer to be out in the field, he will still be lying in bed and that is not a good way to develop a farm.”
Senior Agriculture Officer (Lomaiviti), Mr Aporosa Lalabalavu said youths around the country had potential to produce commodities on large scale basis.
“We have been assisting these youths at Lovoni with frequent visits and technical advice so that they are on par with the planting programme required of them in order to meet their targets,” said Mr Lalabalavu.
“I am sure that in the coming months, they will have completed the first phase of their targets and start on their next planting phase because they hope to produce on a larger scale and provide quality commodities for the market.”
So far the Nasaumatua Group have 48,000 dalo plants already on the ground and over 100,000 yaqona plants with many planted over a period of four years.
The group’s yaqona is sold at the Suva market.
Yaqona and dalo is supplied to Levuka and Suva and there are plans to grow vegetables on a large scale so to supply Levuka Market.
“We have been feeding the employees of PAFCO with our dalo as well as supplying to Waisali Farm Produce which sends them overseas. We know that with our potentials and determination, we will soon be major suppliers of dalo to the main markets in Viti Levu especially with the excellent shipping services that we have been getting,” smiled Isireli.
“Life for the Nasaumatua Youth of Lovoni is just beginning and we hope to achieve everything that we have ever dreamed of. This can only be made possible through dedication and a lot of sacrifices.”



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