Amputee Excels in Ginger Farming

Picture: Solomoni with his two children and ATO Lower Naitasiri Waisake on his farm.

Life for Solomoni Tamani took a turn for the worst in 2017 when his leg had to be amputated due to diabetes, but in his case, this cloud that hung over his head had a silver lining. 

Fast forward to today and you'd be none the wiser if you would have heard his life story because, in the face of the insurmountable odds stacked against him, the now 53-year-old Qelekuro native from Tailevu has managed to find solace and success in farming, ginger farming to be exact.

Solo, as he is affectionately known, lost his right leg 5 years ago and as he recalls, the experience and the disease left him a broken man, in mind, body and spirit. He shares the struggles of raising his family with his wife, Akosita Nakatibau, and prior to their newfound green gold mine, his situation was a challenge and a burden of sorts for their family. 

“In 2017 I had my right leg amputated because I had diabetes, the thought of being this useless person got the best of me and I started to feel unworthy and unwanted - I felt useless,” he said.

“As the man of the family, I knew that I had to provide for my young family, so I would limp to the farm and I would go on my knees to weed and tend to my farm,” he shared.

This continued for a year until he was donated a prosthetic leg in 2018 which enabled him to go beyond his disability and expand his farming horizons to another level.

Through all of this, his faith in the Lord was a driving factor in his determined spirit, Solo testifies and encourages his fellow villagers whenever he visits the village of his unfortunate circumstances and the predicament he was faced with, but he always inspires his fellow villagers and youth to not feel downtrodden when faced with similar obstacles as he shares the visions he has for his farm and shows them all that he has achieved from his farm, particularly with cultivating ginger.

“I had been farming after I left work from the Rewa Dairy Company in 2009 where I had worked for over 14 years, and I returned to farming but the farming technique I used was what I had always seen and learned growing up.

"Come to think of it, to me, the income generated from my farm was hardly satisfying until I attended a training conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture," he said.

He owns a piece of 5-acre land in Wainibuku, Nakasi where he resides with his family, and where he currently also plies his agriculture knowledge and trade on. 

In 2020, a training on ginger cultivation was organised and conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture for farmers in Wainibuku, of which Solo was also a participant. 

It was during this training that Solomoni grasped the idea of cultivating ginger and decided to cultivate ginger as his major commodity; “The beauty of ginger farming is that there is a market for all stages from baby to immature, premature and mature ginger, nothing is left out.”

At the completion of the training, each participating farmer was provided with ginger planting material in addition to the knowledge they had obtained from the training.

He was given 240 ginger seedlings as planting material which he planted and also used some to set up his nursery on his farm. During his harvest in 2021, his sales raked in approximately $2,000.00. He has also replanted one and a half (1½) acres of his land with ginger which he plans to harvest in April 2022, forecasting 20-30 tonnes of immature ginger.

“I wouldn’t have calculated as I am doing now or set a broader goal for my farm, nor taken my interest in ginger farming to another level had it not been for that training and I would like to thank the Agricultural Technical Officer Waisake and his team from the Ministry of Agriculture for the training that they conducted, it was an eye-opener for me,” he said.

The training taught him the particulars of ginger farming, from spacing to choosing planting materials and their maintenance.

Solo grew up in his village of Qelekuro, only being accustomed to planting yaqona and root crops but since being introduced to ginger, he now sings a different tune and is very passionate about growing ginger for the market. 

“Apart from ginger, we also have vegetables and other root-crops growing on the farm, which is specifically being grown as a short-term commodity and from the harvest that we make from the planting materials given to us by the Ministry of Agriculture during the training, it has motivated me even more to plant and grow and expand.”

“Since we are amateurs in ginger farming, it is a constant trial and error practice and with the technical advice we receive from Waisake and the Ministry of Agriculture staff, that has kept us moving and we are taking each step one at a time,” he said.

From the revenue collected from the harvest in 2021, he has paid for his land preparation, as well as paid for the services of 10 residents from the neighbouring HART community who had helped him replant his ginger farm. 

“We are often given chances to have another go in life and it took me an amputated right leg to realize the things that I often took for granted,” he said.

Solo has a simple message to all able-bodied Fijians; "Plant to make a difference in your life, make use of what you have so that you do not have to regret later in life and if I can succeed in farming considering my situation, I do not see any reason why you cannot succeed in farming too,” he challenged.