Sow the seeds of wisdom

Picture: NATI Graduates of 2020

“Ena veigauna ni kida na mataka, caucau liwa mai delana, ubia koto na tegu e loma ni saqata, veivukiyaki noqu vakasama, voleka sara meu dro seu carata, Isa ko tamaqu dena qai rogorogoca na yacana.”

A solemn reminder, for a student attending Navuso Agricultural Technical Institute (NATI) via the school anthem the importance of parents’ sacrifice to ensure that one remains in school, learns as much as one can, and proudly cap off that education journey at the much-anticipated graduation ceremony.

NATI is operated under the Methodist Church of Fiji and Rotuma with grant support from the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Education.

Distinctively also known as Muainase, located in Navuso, Naitasiri, the Institute trains and produces ‘replacement and commercial farmers’ for Fiji.

In 1923 when the Methodist Church was then administered and operated from Australia, L.M Thompson, the then Secretary of Education for the Church, acquired the 1,200 acres freehold property in Navuso from its original owners Scott and Turner specifically to establish an agricultural school.

Overseas experts were brought in to develop the initiative with Mr Ben Meek, a graduate of Hawkesbury Agricultural College in New South Wales becoming the school’s first principal in 1924.

The Institute began recruiting young Fijian youths in villages to enroll for specific agriculture training.

Some decades later, Navuso extended its wings to the Pacific Islands region where it started accepting students from Tonga, Samoa and the Solomon Islands, making it the largest agricultural school in the region to offer Certificate in Tropical Agriculture during the booming 50’s.

Hidden from the main traffic route of that area, and tucked away in lush greenery at Muainase, Head of the Institute, Mr Uraia Waibuta said the courses at the institute would fully equip students to be ‘replacement and future commercial farmers for Fiji’.

“The initial intention of the Institute, was to work towards addressing the current problems faced by young men and women of today in their respective communities,” he said.

“The school curriculum fully prepares young men and women to become future replacement and later commercial farmers in Fiji,” said Mr Waibuta.

“We have realized the saturation in the job market especially with white and blue collar jobs, therefore we have refocused now to creating, innovating and incentivizing the farmer job market.”

The Institute’s two years’ Certificate in Agriculture (Integrated) Level IV program is highly practical in nature, of which 80% is hands-on with students doing practical through attachments on the ten different enterprises provided in the institute facilities.

The enterprises include Dairy, Piggery, Poultry, Aquaculture, Root-crops and Vegetable crops, Fencing, Cottage Industry, Farm Machinery and Carpentry.

“It is critical that we provide the most relevant modern agricultural methods and appropriate technologies and best practice on farming to our students who come from different backgrounds,” he says.

“The point is to ensure that technologies taught to students can easily be implemented and adopted by them when they graduate.”

Currently, the Institute has a total school roll of 115 students, 13 of which are female and 102 male with 21 staff and farm hands.

Apart from the usual academic programme, students are also introduced to extra-curricular activities, such as student driving tests, Individual farms and opening of individual bank accounts.

“We organize sporting events, and teaching iTaukei traditional protocols to empower our young men and women to reduce the gaps that exist in communities on basic traditional knowledge,” Mr Waibuta said.

“In addition, the Institute opens up individual bank accounts for first year students during enrollment so deposits earned by them can be made to their accounts. At the same time, students are able to pay for their own driving lessons from the money they earn,” he said.

Further, students are sent off from the gates of Muainase with a graduation package that includes land with Lease Titles to give them a head start, allowing them to put into practice all the lessons learnt, thus beginning the journey to sowing the seeds of excellence.

NATI is proud to have a recognized certificate programme under its cap, which is the Certificate in Agriculture Level IV. Now, the Institute has also been identified as the provider for the National Qualification on National Certificate in Dairy Level II.

The underlying strength to the Institute, since it is a Methodist owned Institute, spiritual development to students is a cross cutting program that runs in parallel with all its technical programs.

“We strongly believe, once these young men are holistically empowered, that is spiritually, technically and socially, they will create changes in their respective communities and growth in the agriculture sector.”

The Ministry of Agriculture in its 2020-2021 Budget allocated a total of $665,270 to NATI.