It’s farming for me, says former tourism worker

Picture: Manoj and his wife Aruna Devi working in the nursery that was provided by the Ministry of Agriculture thanks to the British Government.

Despite 16 years in the tourism industry, Manoj Kumar, 58, is not in any hurry to return there even when Fiji opens up to international visitors from 1 December 2021.

The former tourism employee residing on Votualevu Cemetery Road, Nadi said COVID-19 forced the change when he was laid off.

“I went to the Ministry of Agriculture and they helped by giving me a nursery kit. I want to thank the Government of the day. I look forward to more assistance so I can expand more.

“I started with one nursery planting coriander, cabbages, and other vegetables. Then I earned more and built another one. I got the pine posts and fitted it with a sprinkler system,” Manoj explained.

In this second nursery he plants coriander, tomatoes, capsicums, eggplants, and chillies to name a few. However, his main commodity is coriander.

“It’s easy to plant and grows in one month.”

Manoj explained his expansion only began from the first assistance of the first nursery kit.

“Now I am also planting outside the nursery. I have only four acres of land as my share but I am making use of all of it. I am planting cassava, lime, lemon grass, duruka, and a bit of sugarcane,” he said.

His water source is from a creek nearby that he pulls via a water pump through to his irrigation system set up around his land.

He has a steady market for his vegetables and sells almost every week making around $400 in sales.

He said he used to plant before the global pandemic hit Fiji so after COVID-19, there was no choice but to farm full time.

“I used to make more when I was working, I am just waiting for the industry to open so I can do better,” he said.

As to whether he intends to return to the industry he spent quite some time in when it fully re-opens in less than two weeks, Manoj said he was confident that he had made the right choice.

“I do not think I will return to the industry when it re-opens, I will just continue farming and expand. I will stick to farming,” he said.

From his vegetable farm, Manoj has since expanded into poultry farming investing into chickens and ducks which has seen him supplying eggs as well.  He also has a tractor to help him with land prep activities.

Farming has certainly made Manoj a happy man which is evident in the way that he carries himself around his farm.

Manoj advised those who had land and had not yet made use of it, to do so because “everything you need is in the land; money is in the land; life is in the land; and there is no one to boss you.”

He was one of the 54 recipients who received nursery kits early this year thanks to the British Government who handed it over to the Fijian Government through the Ministry of Agriculture to assist those who had been economically impacted by COVID-19 as well as those who had been affected by the two cyclones that had hit Fiji late last year and early this year - to turn to agriculture as an alternative livelihood option.

During the handover ceremony, British High Commissioner to Fiji, His Excellency George Edgar had said the event was a result of close collaboration between the High Commission and the Ministry of Agriculture through its Food Security and Accelerated Agriculture Growth Plan aimed at rebuilding and accelerating agriculture in response to COVID-19 and the Tropical Cyclones Yasa and Ana that caused damage to Fiji including its agriculture sector.

Receiving the nursery kits, Minister for Agriculture, Waterways and Environment, Hon. Dr Mahendra Reddy had thanked the British Government for the gesture that he added, would serve multiple roles.

One of which, he explained was that those who had lost employment in the formal sector were now able to secure an alternative source of income, which in turn, would expand the agriculture sector commercially. Finally, the Minister had also said the nursery products under the care of the nursery owners would attract other farmers to buy, thus expanding commercial agriculture activity.