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Life as a young farmer in Fiji

Posted by Beate Stalsett Friday, September 2, 2016

By Tevita Ravumaidama, PHVA-Partners in Community Development Fiji (PCDF) and Monica Romano

Young people living in rural areas have the potential, as the farmers and producers of tomorrow, to help feed the world's growing population. But young people are increasingly abandoning agriculture and rural areas in search of better livelihoods in cities or abroad. In The Pacific island of Fiji, Joji Naikau returned to his rural hometown to invest in his farm and is showing great success.

Joji Naikau, 30, is a young man 30 living in Nadala village, Savaty district, in Ba province of Fiji. He is married with two children, and one of the beneficiaries of the Partnership in High Value Agriculture (PHVA) programme, an IFAD-supported grant targeting 13 villages and 7 settlements located in an impoverished district of Nadarivatu in the interior of Fiji’s main island of Viti Levu.

The USD 500,000 grant implemented during 2012-2015 aimed at increasing the income of the 200 farmers who participated by 20 per cent from the production of high value products, through enhanced market linkages and community empowerment.

Before joining the programme, Joji was not farming to earn his livelihoods. Despite owning 1.5 hectares of land, he had no knowledge and skills on how to use it for income generation. Therefore, he moved to Fiji’s capital of Suva and started to undertake mechanical work for an engineering company.

A few years ago while he was spending Christmas time in his village, he was approached by staff working for the IFAD-supported programme, and encouraged to participate in some training activities to learn how to put his land under production and to invest in farming as a business.
Joji presented his experience at the 1st stakeholder workshop of the IFAD-funded Fiji Agricultural Partnerships Project. Credit: M. Romano

He decided to try this opportunity because he was not happy with his job in the city. With the money earned through his urban job, he was barely able to buy food and rather wanted to make some more long-term investments to improve the life and prospects of his family. 

Therefore, Joji attended various technical and business-oriented trainings offered by the programme, including on farm management (e.g. growing vegetables and fruit such as tomatoes, capsicum, English and Chinese cabbage, watermelon and zucchini); adoption of best husbandry practices; financial literacy and management; entrepreneurship and negotiating skills. 

Joji is very satisfied with his new activity and he was able to achieve amazing results which has benefitted  his whole family. Sales of vegetables and fruits enabled him to earn about USD 6,300-7,200 annually in the first two years as opposed to intermittent earnings from previous work in the city due to an unsecure job, which ranged from about USD 1,400-2,400 annually. Over the first two years of farming work, he was also able to save some USD 3,400-4,800. In contrast, while working in Suva he was unable to save, faced with considerable expenses due to high living costs in the city. 

Through his farming activities, he managed to move from a small and simple house to a new and bigger one. He is also able to meet family commitments like health fees/charges, while contributing to community water projects, school infrastructures, church activities and extended family obligations. His next plan is to save more money to pay for his children’s education.