Keshwan, the risk-taker

There was no turning back for Keshwan when he departed from his mechanic job and took up farming.

He was born in Tavua, but his family moved to Lautoka in 1989 and in 1994, he left his job as a mechanic at a bus company and started a new job he did not know about.

63-year-old Keshwan Nair first moved to Lomaivuna when he was 39, where his older brother was living as a farmer and learned to farm from his brother.

He was definite in his choice not to go back to Lautoka when he got the first harvest and compared what he could make working as a mechanic every week to what he could earn from farming. 

Grasping all the farming knowledge he could get, and purchased 11-and-a-half acre land at Lomaivuna Sector 4 in 2014.

He planted dalo, cassava and ginger on nine acres and secured his markets for the middleman who picked his produce along the way.

In 2016, Keshwan was assisted by the Ministry of Agriculture on land preparation, clearing two acres of his land for ginger farming.

Comparing his former salary as a mechanic to what he could get from farming that was when he left it for good.    

"I earned $180 a week as a mechanic and had to report every day by waking up early. However, when I started working on the farm, I was amazed to see how something that people take for granted can generate a lot of income," he said.

After each harvest, Keshwan would receive approximately $200 and he has been producing a variety of commodities.

Not all days are a bed of roses and the farming family has experienced the highs and lows of farming with the biggest blow being during the devastation of TC Winston.

“They were like my children, apart from the crops generating income. I have always treated them with care as they are living things too and when I saw how bad it devastated them, I was really sad,” said Keshwan.

Keshwan and his family did not let their dreams and hard work die with TC Winston as they worked and rebuilt their farm back to its glory.

Keshwan had a dream of planting vegetables, but the dry area he lived in posed a challenge; water was scarce and drought was prevalent. He was determined to make his dream come true and so he took the risk of constructing a man-made pond to store water.

Added to his future plan of planting vegetables is the idea of setting up an irrigation system to irrigate his vegetable farm.

Working alongside Keshwan is his 32-year-old son Rajiv Nair, who has found his niche in farming, an individual who studied and worked as an electrician but returned to farming in 2012.

Rajiv revealed he remembered taking time off school and appreciating being on the farm, and his most treasured memory was always skipping school just to help his father on the farm. It was not unexpected when his heart wished to return to farming.

“I did not regret the decision I made because I have seen its benefits while being a helper to my father and now I am working on another 10 acres of land my father recently bought.”

Amongst the challenges the duo face, labour, a rise in chemical prices and the unwavering ginger market are something they are tackling.

The sacrifice Keshwan made when he first changed course from being a mechanic to a farmer and the vision that came with the career change became fruition, as he could give his children a good education, bought farm vehicles including a tractor, and build a home.

As fit as he looks for a 63-year-old and someone who has been toiling the land, he says farming generates not only income but is also a health-benefitting activity.

Keshwan, a hardworking man, gave up his mechanic tools for farming tools and started small with cassava and dalo farming, but overcame natural disasters through perseverance and encouraged others with land to farm.

“If you have the land make use of it as we are going through a hard time, you can get a lot from farming. You might have land but do not farm or have leased but have not started clearing, please make use of it and farm, you will find gold in the land, turn to agriculture and benefit from it just like how we did,” said Keshwan.