Joji’s Kava Farming Continues on Family Legacy

The southern maritime island of Kadavu is renowned for its sprawling evergreen kava plantations that abound on the island.

It is no secret that kava from far-flung bird land Kadavu is prized among kava-producing provinces here in Fiji and it is for this reason that 28-year-old yaqona farmer Joji Ravucake of Daviqele in Nabukelevu has chosen yaqona farming as his main cash crop too.

Joji’s father and namesake, 69-year-old Joji Ratulevu is a well-known and respected figure in the Nabukelevu district who has since retired from farming but still lends a helping hand to his son in the upkeep and running of his yaqona farming. Joji (Snr) is famous in Nabukelevu because he had lived and survived off of his farm for 17 years without ever setting foot in the village because of the distance and rugged terrain between his farm and village.

For young Joji, following in his father’s footsteps was the obvious choice and for the former Queen Victoria School student, being a chip off the old block is a compliment as his father’s farming accolades and legacy is one he strives to emulate.

He toils the land to meet his family’s needs and his farm is located in the centre of the foot of Mount Nabukelevu, sandwiched between what people of Nabukelevu distinctly call ‘baba tokalau’ meaning Northern shore and ‘baba ceva’ meaning Southern shore.

Joji’s farm is situated on prime fertile land and like his father, he too has spent years tucked away on the farm without returning to the village, attending to his farm like any good ardent farmer would and this avid approach bore fruition come harvesting time as his matured yaqona plants garnered him well-earned distinction amongst his fellow yaqona farmers in the district.

“I left Nukuvuto in 2011, and I made my way back home to take up farming,” said Joji.

The young lad was further challenged to expand his farming when his sister scooped the Eastern Division Best Female Farmer of the Year award in 2014 at the National Agriculture Show held in Lautoka. 

His sister’s achievement was a wake-up call of sorts as he knew that if she could do it, so too could he.

“I was happy that she was awarded but I also questioned my own capabilities as a man and this made me work extra hard, I targeted to increase the number of yaqona I planted and hoped that I too could be recognized for my farming,” he said.

And as fate would have it, to the victor go the spoils and Joji received due recognition in 2015 for going that extra mile when he scooped the Young Farmer of Kadavu award during that year’s Yaubula Sevens held at Vunisea, Kadavu.  

The siblings’ healthy farming competition has catapulted their own individual farming journeys and has added gust to their existing farming prowess, which was all started by their loving father.

“I believe that silent sacrifices can go a long way and one day, you will be recognized as results will speak for themselves.

In 2017, he harvested close to 5,000 of his yaqona plants to help in the purchase of a fibre-glass boat and outboard motor engine, and this saw him purchasing a 23 feet Safeway Marine fibre-glass boat with an accompanying 40HP Yamaha outboard engine, which would help to ease transportation needs for his family.

The district of Nabukelevu is located right on the edge of Kadavu and gaining access to it is either via fibre-glass boat or a long arduous bumpy ride through long dusty winding roads.

Due to this challenge in transportation, the fibre-glass boat that he purchased has been of great assistance in transporting his own produce to the ferry that services the island and is also often used to take children to school along with charted transfers of villagers to other parts of Kadavu, earning him an extra stream of income.

Despite all the challenges he has faced as a farmer, what with being ravaged by natural disasters such as hurricanes etc, Joji has taught himself to keep a cool head, to the extent that he has picked up a few tricks along the way and has implemented said tricks on his farming patterns to avoid disappointment from natural disasters.  

According to him, yaqona farming can be a lucrative business provided rural farmers equip themselves with knowledge and learn about the value chain, especially for Kadavu whereby the lives of families depend on yaqona.

As he pondered on his formative years in the school system, he shared a word of advice to young men and women who may not have excelled in education to consider taking up farming as their main source of income.

“Na i lavo levu na vakayagataki qele, keda na I’Taukei e levu na noda qele, keda rawa tale ga ni vakai ira na cakacaka na office meda tauri i lavo, kivei kemuni nai tabagone kevaka e sa sega ni rawa na vuli ni kakua ni yalolailai, ni vakayagataka na qele.”

“There is a lot of money to be earned from the land, especially to us iTaukei who have a lot of land, we too can earn a living and make money just like those who work in offices, particularly to our youth, if you have dropped out of school, do not be disheartened, the land is always there, use it,” said Joji.