Picture: Burelevu Cooperative spokesperson Ilivasi Drou with the tractor operator

The Farm Mechanization Program of the Ministry of Agriculture and Waterways has gone a long way to assist farmers of Burelevu with their livelihood.


The villagers formed the Burelevu Co-operative, a village-based cluster, to assist farmers in land preparation in the village of Burelevu, located in the district of Nalaba in the province of Ra.


Cooperative spokesperson Ilivasi Drou said the villagers are keen farmers who want to embrace new technologies on their farms.


“Villagers of Burelevu village have been farming for a long time but have been facing difficulties in the cultivation of the land for smart agricultural practices,” he said.


“We have been producing but not to the maximum of our land capacity because we do not have the right technology for maximum land preparation works.”


“I guess we just refused to toil the available land because we lacked so many farm machineries and have been using animals for ploughing and using the traditional methods of farming,” he explained.


He said that in one of the village meetings, there were discussions on areas to boost agricultural production and raise the standard of living.


“Previously, because of the increasing number of demands from other farmers in Ra on the government assistance in the tractor operation for land preparations, we would wait for weeks and months,” said Ilivasi.


“This usually affected our production because we had to wait, which resulted in either missing the planting season or reducing the production area because we were using animals to plough,” he said.


The urge to produce was high, so the villages of Burelevu approached the Ministry of Agriculture and Waterways for directions to solve the mechanization problem to alleviate poverty in the village.


The Ministry of Agriculture and Waterways then introduced the Farm Mechanization Program to them.


The tractor cost $39,000 and the Ministry of Agriculture and Waterways arranged for Burelevu Cooperative to only pay one-third of the total price through the Farm Mechanization Program.


“It was a one-third and two-third basis and it was a wonderful idea for us as this would increase efficiency in production and help combat poverty in the village and the Nalaba district as a whole,” said Ilivasi.


After three years of trying, the collective work of the village enabled them to achieve their one–third of $15,000 in July 2022 and the cooperative initiative is benefitting 150 Burelevu villagers.


In three years, the villagers fundraised for their share with patience and perseverance.


“We would host fundraising drives in the village for the sole intention of our one-third contribution and when we reached our target, we approached the Ministry of Agriculture again for the tractor.”


To date, the tractor has worked a total of 1,000 operating hours. When it first started, it reached a total of 250 hours operating within the village boundary at $30 per hour to every village farmer and from the money collected the cooperative could pay the tractor operator, re-fuel and put into the village bank account $10 from every hour the tractor operates.


With the technical advice from the Ministry of Agriculture and daily communication, the Burelevu Cooperative decided to operate the tractor at $37.50 per hour.


The Burelevu Cooperative tractor has extended its services to the villages of Burenitu, Namata, Nativi, Batiga, Nabalebale, Raviravi and Nayavulevu.


“There has been a significant change, and we have seen the huge benefit of getting our tractor. This change has greatly impacted our agricultural production as a whole,” said Ilivasi.


“From little plots, we are now planting in acres with a wide variety of vegetables and root crops and the farming interest in the village has also increased.”


“Having the land is a blessing, and we don’t have to pay for anything. To combat poverty, we should make use of the land and work together as a cooperative to help us move forward,” he advised.


63-year-old farmer Iliaseri Natabadamu from Burelevu village is one of the villagers who is also benefitting from the cooperative tractor.


“We are grateful that we have moved from using animals to mechanization. It has moved Burelevu forward and we are happy that we can see a change in the village, something we have been trying for a very long time,” he said.  


Iliaseri plants root crops such as kumala and assorted vegetables and says that he has hired the tractor for the third time on his land.


“We can plant crops we couldn’t plant before because of the limited land clearing and the introduction of the tractor brings about relief and has painted a different farming picture on the flatlands of Burelevu with now acres of land ploughed and planted,” said Iliaseri.


The cooperative hopes to also move into semi-commercial and commercial farming in the near future.