A New Dawn for Nawaka

mailife - - Contents - By MELA TUILEVUKA Photos by ANDY PAUL

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.

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