No Substitute for Hard Work: Soko

Picture: Sakiusa Soko at his vegetable site on the hill in Waila, Nausori.

The impact that COVID-19 has had on the socio-economic landscape of Fiji is unprecedented, a jarring reflection of this is the loss of income of ordinary Fijians throughout the country. 

Even though the loss of income and employment is true for a majority of the population, for 42-year-old Tubou, Lakeba native Sakiusa Soko, the silver lining to his cloud has been returning to the land. 

After being dealt this telling blow to his everyday life and the livelihood of his family, Soko was given a lifeline to toil and cultivate a piece of land situated in Waila, Nausori. 

“I am from the Mataqali (land-owning unit) Naivi in Tubou, Lakeba in Lau and I am farming on this 5 - 6 acre of land here in Waila which belongs to my aunt,” he said. 

“Nowadays, with the rate of unemployment being so high and with me also without a job, I have dedicated my time, energy and strength to farming, getting up early in the morning, I make my way to the farm to weed and maintain its upkeep.”

For Soko, toiling the land has been a fulfilling activity because he has poured his heart and soul into it for the wellbeing of his family, and through the assistance provided by the Ministry of Agriculture, has opened up a new found admiration for vegetable farming, which he has just been introduced to through the Ministry’s Home Gardening programme.

“I also sought the assistance of the Ministry of Agriculture through the Home Gardening packs and other technical advice, and once I received my seed packs, I made it a priority to sow the seeds and plant them immediately as can be seen on my farm today. 

He planted the bean, cucumber, tomato, long-bean, capsicum, eggplant, and cabbage seeds straight away.

“I have only ever planted cassava and dalo before but after planting these vegetable seeds, I greatly appreciate it because it grows right here and is available when we need it and I am very happy to have been assisted with the Home Gardening package,” he said.

Sharing on his experiences as a farmer, Soko attests to the immeasurable opportunities that abound in utilizing the land. 

“I am currently farming on 5-6acreas of land which belongs to my uncle and aunt, seeing as I had lost my employment, I was fortunate enough to be given an opportunity by my aunt to come and use her land to farm on, which I am currently doing now and I am thankful to her for this opportunity.

“I urge all Fijians if there is any vacant piece of land available around your home, use it. If there is anything we can do now during these trying times, we should look to the land, to my fellow Fijians, if you find yourself in the city and towns without any means of income, return to your villages, throw yourselves into farming because everybody needs to eat,” he said.

“With the current restrictions in movement and with COVID-19, something that cannot be restricted is the need to eat, so return to the land because a lot of Fijians have lost their jobs and I don’t believe in using the loss of employment as an excuse to justify your struggle, there is land available to us and Government is also on hand to provide assistance,” Mr Soko emphasized. 

“The assistance being provided by Government, particularly the Ministry of Agriculture is helpful indeed to us, you just need to do your part when you have received any kind of assistance and be truthful in what you do, uphold your end of the bargain when you have received the assistance because it is part of the Government’s investment in the lives of its citizens and I am so grateful and thankful to the Ministry of Agriculture for the assistance it has provided so far because our livelihoods have been impacted but the onus is on us to turn our fortunes around. 

And as Soko aptly puts it; “There is no substitute for hard work!”