A New Dawn for Nawaka
Binge drinking, disobeying village elders and other problems created by unemployed villagers is a thing of the past for Nawaka village in Nadi. Thanks to four former national rugby legends who have represented Fiji in both the 15s and 7s code, the men have changed for the better. The Naevo brothers Ratu Apisai Naevo, who represented Fiji in the 1996, 1999 and the 2003 World Cup and younger brother Ratu Semisi who represented Fiji in the 15s code; police officers Savenaca Aria who represented Fiji in the 1987 World Cup and Alifereti Dere a former 15s rep and national 7s coach, have been the driving force behind the changing lifestyle of these men, some of whom are young fathers. Born and bred in Nawaka, the four rugby greats agreed to a farming project masterminded by Rosivela Dresu, who is also from Nawaka. Rosivela, a Technical Crops Officer for Fiji Crop and Livestock Council based in Lautoka, has taken his fellow villagers back to tolling the land that has been lying idle for years and shown them organic farming methods to generate income. “Most of them have no source of income, they don’t get any lease money and whenever they do get money, it is usually spent on drink.” “When they are drunk, problems arise within their families or with other villagers, especially when they raise their voices to village elders and defy village rules,” Rosivela said. Most of the men in the village have been subsistence farmers for the past three decades. Since last year, Rosivela began sharing his farming ideas with a few village men. However, they seemed hesitant and unconvinced, except for the group’s 40-year-old farm manager, Livai Tutuya who has known nothing but farming since he was 10 years old. “Livai has been a subsistence farmer for 30 years and because of his maturity and seniority, I decided to convince
him before getting the others involved.” “With Livai on board, I approached the Naevo brothers and later Savenaca Aria who gave us a few acres of his land to start off our farming project,” Rosivela said. “We gathered the men and explained the project and luckily a few of them were convinced and we started things off.” The 15 member group is named Sigavou Farmers, which means ‘a new dawn’ and the group refers to the biblical meaning stated in Proverbs 14:23 which reads ‘In all labor there is profit but idle chatter leads to poverty’ as the beginning of their new dawn. The group members are: Savenaca and Sera Aria, Apisai and Semisi Naevo, Livai Tutuya, Maikeli Naqera, Ameniasi Naevo, Etuate Tawase, Etuate Derenalagi, Apenisa Nabati, Semi Namata, Timoci Vuniyayawa, Vilikesa Aria, Jo Naisarani, Jo Natua, Semi Sau Kubu and Lalai Driu. The aim of the group is to venture into commercial farming, establish markets for their produce and to provide employment for other youths in the village. The farmers have an eight hour work schedule at the farm from 6am to 10am and 2pm to 6pm. They managed to clear the four acres given for their use by Savenaca Aria within a week. The efficiency of the group left Rosivela Dresu stunned and more determined to see this project through. “I can now see they are eager to move forward with our project,” Rosivela said. The main crop currently being planted is Garnet Yams – a type of sweet potato that has orange flesh and which already has a market after harvesting in four to five months time. Group member 38-year-old Aminiasi Drodrolagi, who has been farming for the last two decades explained that the carrot kumala can be harvested in about four months. “We planted this crop in February and we hope to harvest in June. Our aim is to invest in a tractor once the proceeds of
our harvest comes through,” Aminiasi said. “This is a new crop for me and I am excited to see how much income it will generate and I hope our group will achieve its goals.” Aminiasi said he is thankful to Rosivela and the rugby legends for their contribution in getting things started for the group. “We didn’t get any assistance whatsoever from the Ministry of Agriculture or any other organisation. Thanks to Api, Misi, Save, Dere and Rosivela, I am happy with how far we have come” he said. “It is unbelievable how much we have achieved as a group and I think this project will bring about wealth and stability for us and our families.” Aminiasi said that previously they were frequent visitors to the police cells in Nadi because they were involved in crime as a result of drinking too much. But now their time and energy is focused on farming. Officer-in-Charge at Nadi Police Station, ASP Simione Bale took time off from a busy schedule to visit the farmers. He said this is the first time he had witnessed a project of this sort and commended those involved. He told the farmers he would gather his men from the Nadi Police station once a week to come and help them to clear and plant more land. Nawaka Methodist Church Steward Seremaia Drivi said the farming project has brought about positive changes to the young fathers and young men of the village. “Ooohh I thank God for the positive changes the project has brought about and as a church, all we can do is to continue praying for the lives of the group, that they achieve their goals so that the village can prosper,” Mr Drivi said. Three-time Rugby World Cup rep Ratu Apisai Naevo said when Rosivela approached him with the project idea he knew straight away it was a way forward for the villagers. “We have a lot of land here in Nawaka that is lying idle and as soon as I was approached, I agreed straight away,” Ratu Apisai said. He said Nawaka is known as a rugby village and some great names in rugby are from the village. “I know a lot of youths are into sports as their source of income and for most of us Fijians, it is rugby. But sports will always be there. We need to find other means to generate income and this project is one of them. “I am happy, very happy with the project and the group has gone beyond their limits in terms of how much crop they have planted so far.” President of the Tikina o Nawaka Women’s Wing, Adi Marica Naevo said that within the short time since the project started in the village, she had seen a huge change in the lives of the village men. “Before they used to sit for hours drinking grog or alcohol and we used to have problems of all sorts in the village,” Adi Marica said. “But now, the farming project has changed them. They regard the project as work because at the end of the day, they will get money from it.” Adi Marica, filled with emotion, said the women were happy with the changes and hoped the men would continue to pursue the project. “They now spend time at home with their families and we are no longer worried about their long hours around the tanoa.” Rosivela Dresu said the village women are not left out in the project because when the sweet potatoes are harvested, the women would peel and pack the crop ready for hotels and other markets. The group have their own fundraising drives including selling coconuts and having ‘kaji’ kai involving the sale of playing cards for mussels. “We raised more than $700 in the past two weeks from our kaji kai and we didn’t spend any money on expenses because we fetched the kai ourselves from the Nawaka River,” Rosivela said. The aim of the fundraising is to help with buying the tractor. Rosivela is grateful to the South Pacific Community (SPC) Pacific Agriculture Policy Project (PAPP) for sending him to the Caribbean as a representative of Fiji Crops and Livestock Council because it was during this trip that he gained knowledge of the basic organic farming methods that he has shared with farmers in the project. Rosivela said the FCLC is also trying to involve Nadi Town Council in providing compost bins in Nadi Market for food waste to be later collected by the group. “We have compost bins in the village and we have a Compost Manager who oversees the collection of the bins, but we need more bins to provide more compost for the crops.”
Sigavou Farmers busy on their farm
Nadi Police Station Officer-in-Charge ASP Simione Bale with Savenaca Aria and FCLC Technical Crop Officer Rosivela Dresu having a discussion about the Sigavou Farmers.
Some members of the Sigavou Farmers take time out to pose for Mailife. Standing tall in the middle (orange t-shirt) is rugby legend Apisai Naevo.