Picture: Savenaca and his family.
There was always a fleeting feeling that tugged at Savenaca Tuiwailevu's strings and which beckoned to him to return to the land.
He finally came to the realization that farming was the missing piece to his jigsaw puzzle when he finally returned to his village of Nasau in Nabukelevu, Kadavu 4 years ago in 2018.
In his lifelong pursuit of a better life which took him as far as the United States of America, his niche on the other hand awaited him on his island home no matter where he went.
His formative years as a young lad was spent on the island where he attended Nabukelevu District School and Richmond Methodist High School before crossing over to attend Suva Sangam School and later on Lelean Memorial School.
He later enrolled at the then Fiji Institute of Technology (FIT) as a private student with his tuition fees being paid from the yaqona sales of his father.
"After I graduated, I landed my first job as an apprentice fitter machinist stage 3 working as a refrigeration air conditioning technician at the Carlton Brewery Fiji Limited but because I wasn't fully prepared for the working environment and due to the temptations as a young man, I unfortunately lost my job," he shared.
Savenaca then returned to his village in Nasau after this ordeal and started farming, but he didn't fully commit himself to the task and felt that he wasn't ready to live a village life just yet.
He shared that staying in the village became hard for him and that was when he made another attempt to leave the island, managing to persuade his father to put him through school once again.
He returned to FIT and resumed his studies with the support of his father, who once more paid his tuition through kava. After graduating he helped sell his father’s harvested yaqona at the Suva Municipal Market for a year.
"It was during this time that I learnt the ropes of the market and built connections with farmers and vendors alike. One day while selling yaqona, I came across an advertisement in the papers for work in American Samoa as a trade machinist.
Without hesitation he grabbed the opportunity and went to work for 14 years in “the heart of Polynesia”.
Savenaca would make a trip back home for Christmas and while waiting for the vessel in Vunisea, he would observe the number of outboard fiber motors and vehicles which were all achieved from yaqona farming on the island and it was this that motivated him to rethink his position.
Starting off with 2,000 yaqona plants he gradually increased his yield through the help of his village community through the traditional practice of isolesolevaki.
Since taking up farming full time on the island, Savenaca has harvested his yaqona and has built a home for his family and also started an open firewood bakery, selling bread to his village and neighboring villages and being a first for the district of Nabukelevu, his bread sells like hot cakes within the area.
"I sell and supply my yaqona to customers in Suva and Nadi and I am slowly placing my yaqona business into action because I realize now that what I had gone searching for all those years ago was always here in the land and farm.
For someone who started from scratch, Savenaca believes that the choices he made taught him valuable lessons but choosing to become a farmer was by far the most important one he made in his life, earning him peace of mind and a life fulfilled.
Savenaca was recent a participant of the Farm Management training held at Nasau village by the Ministry of Agriculture for farmers of Nabukelevu district.