Vinaka Vakalevu, Ra Farmer to Government

Picture: Eroni on his farm in Navai, up in the Nadarivatu Highlands.

A Ra farmer planting in the highlands of Nadarivatu has credited the success of his business to the assistance given by the Government.

Eroni Tokalau Qolikitoga, 47, of Nabalasere, Saivou, Ra is a vegetable farmer planting on about five acres at the moment from his total of nine acres of land in Navai, Nadarivatu, Ba.

Speaking in i-taukei, Eroni explained he was assisted with a green house, a rotovator, water pump, irrigation set, water tank, manure, drainage, and land preparatory activities.

He said he was very grateful for the Government assistance he received through the Ministry of Agriculture that has allowed him to ensure work on his farm was now a non-stop process.

He added the water pump, generator, water tank and irrigation system have all helped him increase his production.

Eroni has been farming for over 12 years’ following in the footsteps of his parents who have since passed on.

He said there were only three of them working on his farm, every day – himself, his wife and their nine-year-old son. He only brings in more help at harvest time.

He also plants potatoes and has been recognized for producing the best in the highlands. He credits that to not using chemicals fertilisers opting instead to stick with poultry manure.

Potatoes are also grown twice a year, hence harvest is also done twice annually. Besides green leafy vegetables, he also plants carrots, capsicums, and root crops.

He has regular customers who call him directly for their orders, which he delivers to Tavua, Ba, Lautoka, and Suva.  

Farming has enabled him to not only feed his family healthy meals, but also extend his home, educate his son, and allowed him to put some aside as savings as well.

Eroni was assisted with farming equipment in 2017 consisting of plastic covering for germinating his seeds before transplanting, a rotovator, an irrigation set, a water pump, a water tank, and land preparatory activities.

He plans to buy a vehicle that will allow him to transport his own fresh produce down to his customers. At the moment, he is asking a relative to use theirs. But he says, it was not the same as having one’s own. In addition, he wants to continue in extending his home and of course, grow his savings.

Eroni said the best part about farming was being your own boss. But he stressed, time management was critical to the success of his business. Another, he said, was the improved health of his family from including the vegetables they plant in their daily diet. He added, making money from his farm was the icing on the cake.

He said he makes more money during the off-season compared to the dry season where the prices of vegetables dropped. He said during the off-season he would work twice as hard to ensure that his supply was not disrupted. If sales were not good, Eroni explained, he would collect around $500. But if it was good, he would make more than twice that amount.

He said he always stressed to the youths and even those in the same age, the importance of managing time. He said he would wake up in the morning around 6am or 7am and spend the entire day on the farm and only return in the afternoon. That was his routine every day.

Eroni said there were challenges as well he faced on his farm which were pests and the weather such as cyclones that damaged his produce. But he has found a way to protect his vegetables, such as placing a covering on the vegetables, which he added, has helped.

Eroni was assisted under the Nadarivatu Development Program. The objectives of this Program was to improve the production of high value vegetables through better infrastructure and the introduction of smart farming techniques to meet the tourism market and local food demand; and to capitalize on the unique climatic conditions in Nadarivatu which could grow vegetables during the off-seasons.

The Highlands Farming Program is the new program that replaces the Nadarivatu Development Program and is included in the Ministry’s 2021-2022 Budget with the intention to facilitate the expansion of crop production through infrastructure improvement to potential farming areas in the Provinces of Ra, Ba and Nadroga/Navosa.

The objectives of the Highlands Farming Program are to improve market access to the rural farming communities through the provision of infrastructure development that will stimulate socio-economic growth in terms of mass production of commodities such as dalo, yams, pulses and assorted vegetables; and to modernize agriculture by providing assistance to potential commercial farmers through the procurement of farm machines, agro inputs, draft animals and implements.