Beef farmer living his dream

Written By : Source: Ministry of Primary Industries. Life in the highlands of Yalavou in Nadroga has proven to be very challenging but for its inhabitants, everyday is a challenge.
27 May 2011 12:00

image Written By : Source: Ministry of Primary Industries. Life in the highlands of Yalavou in Nadroga has proven to be very challenging but for its inhabitants, everyday is a challenge.
For 54-year-old Alipate Natoba of Sovi Village, the lines etched across his face brings about a rugged look that tells a story of the hardships and challenges that he has faced in his lifetime.
Mr Natoba is probably one of the very few survivors of the Yalavou Beef Scheme that was introduced back in 1978 as he is still continuing with beef farming even though the scheme has been phased out.
He began his venture with only six female cattle and has developed over the years to a total cattle herd of 72 and hopes to fully utilise 556 acres of his land in the next five years.
“Yalavou is slowly getting back to its feet and we are grateful to the Government for realising the need to get Yalavou back on her feet again,” he said.
Alipate says that the early days of the Yalavou Beef Scheme were great times for them in the village and young boys like him back in those days were very keen beef followers.
“We would follow the elders of the village around especially when it came to rounding up the cattle at the end of the day,” he laughed.
“I had made up my mind there and then that I would be a beef farmer and that is exactly what I have achieved,” he says proudly.
With two sons already following his footsteps, Mr Natoba remains assured that his beef farm will continue for generations to come.
“The thrill that I first felt when joining the elders in rounding up the cattle is always noticeable in my sons eyes whenever they join me on the farm and their passion has increased through the years,” he said proudly.
“We are working closely with the Animal Health and Production Division of the Department of Agriculture and we are indeed grateful for the assistance that was rendered to us last year,” he said.
Mr Natoba is one of the proud recipients of Government’s Import Substitution Programme (ISP) and was assisted with $15,340 worth of fencing materials, 10 heifers and a bull.
According to Agriculture officer (Nadroga/Navosa) Tevita Nabura, he was also assisted with three acres of pasture development for his cattle.
“Mr Natoba and his boys have been avid followers and is always in touch with us on the technical aspects of beef farming and I must say that they have indeed developed over the years,” said Mr Nabura.
Mr Nabura went on to say that Government is adamant in trying to decrease our beef imports and this will be made possible through greater interaction with farmers and a lot more investment in our beef industry.
Meanwhile, Mr Natoba wishes that more i-Taukei farmers will be involved in beef farming as well as other livestock because it is a great means of earning income.
According to a report that was published in 1985 by the Animal Health and Production Division of the Ministry of Primary Industries, cattle was first introduced into Fiji in the 1830s.
Missionaries and European estate owners began raising cattle in the 1850s. The first regular cattle breeding was attempted in 1859 at Wakaya Island and later some cotton farmers in the Rewa and Navua areas took up cattle farming when the cotton industry collapsed.
The i-Taukei entered into organised smallholder commercial beef operations in 1962 with the setting up of the Verata Beef Scheme in Tailevu. Participating farmers settled on their own block of land which averaged 2000 acres (8I0 Ha) and became full time beef farmers.
This concept in beef development was adopted at Tilivalevu, Nadroga in 1967 and similar schemes followed in other parts of Fiji.
With the assistance of the NZ government, a feasibility study was carried out in 1973 on the integrated beef development in the Saivou area resulting in the establishment of the Uluisavou Corporation in 1967.
Similarly, the Yalavou Beef Scheme was established in 1978 with Australian government assistance.
“I have no idea as to why the various schemes were phased out but I believe in the endless opportunities that are out there if we have the confidence and determination to take advantage of those opportunities,” said a passionate Mr Natoba.
“Livestock farming is probably the easiest way to earn and income as animals feed themselves and all we have to do is ensure that they are feeding well,” he said.
“Of course, we will need to apply tender, love and care but then again, we play the easiest part,” he explained.
Road conditions on the way up to Yalavou need a lot of repairs and this has caused a strain in daily travelling to Sigatoka Town.
“Travelling to and from Yalavou has proven to be a very costly exercise as the fare costs $130 one way so most families have opted to travel only when the need arises.”
“So that is why more farmers are going to the farms instead of travelling to the town,” he smiled.
“Middlemen often come right up here to the farm to buy our cattle or sometimes we have to transport them to the buyers but we are keeping our fingers crossed that when the roads are repaired, there will be more investors travelling up the road to Yalavou,” he smiled.
Many more farmers in the Yalavou areas have been slowly developing their beef farms along with other agricultural activities like root crops and vegetable.
“We have a lot to do and we are indeed confident of achieving them,” he smiled.
Alipate says that he has more dreams and is confident that he will achieve them.
“It’s all about sacrifices and hard work and I am sure that if I can do it so can other farmers around the country.”
“It does not matter if you dream big, as long as you live your dream and walk the path to success,” advised Mr Natoba.
During a recent trip to Yalavou this year, Permanent Secretary for Agriculture Lieutenant-Colonel Mason Smith assured farmers that Government is looking at ways and means of improving Yalavou.
“Yalavou was once well known for its potato and maize production during the scheme days and I am sure that through more training and advice, you will be able to bring back those glory days,” said Mr Smith.
An extension officer will soon be stationed in Yalavou and this will ensure efficient implementation, monitoring and regular advisory services to farmers in the area.

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