Have a Plan B: Retired Principal Agriculture Officer tells public servants

Picture: Retired Principal Agriculture Officer – Eastern Mr Epeli Dugucagi.

Most civil servants who stay in government quarters do not plan well and are unprepared when it’s time for them to retire and leave. It is the reason that it is even more important that current civil servants have an exit plan when they leave the government quarters.

Such were the pearls of wisdom, shared by recently retired Ministry of Agriculture Principal Agriculture Officer – Eastern, Mr Epeli Dugucagi, 55, at his farewell.

As he leaves the Ministry to enjoy his retirement, he says he has nothing to worry about because he has a home in Suva and one in his village in Wainibuka; his farm will keep him busy, given the 3,000 yaqona plants and 1,000 dalo suckers already in the ground and an additional 1,000 yaqona plants in Kadavu; a car and a carrier as well to assist.

“Civil servants, when they retire, they should be enjoying their retirement money for all those years they have worked hard; not using it to build their home. So as I retire, I have nothing to worry about it, I prepared well and will enjoy my retirement,” he said.

Mr Dugucagi was one of the longest-serving civil servants in the Ministry, whose career spanned an impressive 32 years; two years at the Ministry of Education with the remaining years at the Ministry of Agriculture.

As expected, he climbed the ranks and began his career in an agency that has since been re-branded and is now spotting a modern moniker such as the Biosecurity Authority of Fiji (BAF), which was the then Agriculture Quarantine Services, before it was renamed the Fiji Quarantine and Inspection Services, then to the new BAF. 

He was one of those that pioneered the development of the High-Temperature Forced Air (HTFA) plant in Nadi, which treats all fruits with hot and dry fan-driven air for a certain duration to eradicate unwanted pests before it is exported.


He also was involved in the development of the HTFA Manual which he travelled to the Cook Islands to study the concept for three months, as it was the only Pacific Island country at that time that had established an HTFA Plant, besides Hawaii. He successfully transferred the knowledge on his return home, which led to the establishment of Fiji’s own HTFA in Nadi.

From Quarantine, Mr Dugucagi then joined the Landuse Resettlement Division of the Ministry, which was tasked to look for available land for farmers whose land leases had expired.

He also worked in Farm Management before heading to Kadavu to take up the Senior Agriculture Officer’s post to look after farmers there. He was also Principal Agriculture Officer – HQ before successfully taking up the last post that he held till his retirement - PAO Eastern. 

“I really enjoyed working in the Ministry, I learnt a lot. I have travelled to a lot of places within the Pacific, Asia, Brazil, South Africa, India; I have gained a lot. But it hurts too that there are some things I was not able to complete. There is a lot to do in Fiji’s agriculture sector, especially in turning unproductive land into productive land. That is an area we need to develop,” he explained.

Soil health, Mr Dugucagi added, was another area that needed greater focus. “Improving soil conditions will improve agriculture.”

The former PAO Eastern said the division had its own unique challenges that were different from the others. 

“Logistically and connectivity-wise, Eastern Division was challenging. In other divisions, you are able to reach one station within the day or within an hour. That is not the case with Eastern. 

"Travelling itself will take a day at least from Suva to reach one station and returning would take two to three days,” he explained. 

However, he was confident that with the right guidance by whoever would succeed him; the potential the division offered, would be realised.

“Most of the islands in the Eastern Division are organic certified and there is still a lot more to do in this area. I believe whoever will come after me, needs to have good organizational and planning skills to achieve the outputs,” he said. 

Outgoing Permanent Secretary, Mr Ritesh Dass thanked Mr Dugucagi for all the work he had done, including his associations and companionship with colleagues and to the service he provided to the community and farmers.

“You had one of the most challenging divisions to work with and given the uniqueness of the challenges, I am sure it was not an easy feat. But you have done an amazing job, one that will be hard to match, my friend. On behalf of the Hon. Minister and the Ministry of Agriculture thank you for all your hard work, all your dedication, all your support, a Big Vinaka Vakalevu! We wish you all the very best for your future endeavours,” the PS said.