The Fiji Times
An enterprise in the highlands
Retired teacher invests lifesaving into land
NESTLED away in the rough terrains of the highlands of Naitasiri, sits the nature preserved village of Sawanikula. The village is encircled by streams that connect to the illustrious Wainimala River with yaqona being one of its lucrative produce.
Operating a business in the highlands is no easy undertaking as it requires full commitment and determination.
Retired schoolteacher Marika Tikotikovakasiga operates several businesses in the village, making him one of many successful business people to reside in the village.
Mr Tikotikovakasiga runs a poultry farm (both for eggs and meat birds), three ponds for tilapia, prawns and grass carp fish, a village shop and a small yaqona farm.
After retiring from the civil service in 2009, Mr Tikotikovakasiga for two years tried to figure out what he would do with his retirement money.
After long consideration, he finally thought to invest on developing his land in Sawanikula and operate several minor businesses.
He closed his shop Tiko Dairy Shop in Davuilevu, rented out his home and moved back to the village to put his business ideas into action.
“First, I started with the tilapia pond. I hired an excavator to dig three ponds, two of which were commercial sizes.
“I made sure to spend my retirement money wisely on this business so I had to put everything into consideration.
“Two years into running the fish pond I then looked into buying and raising meat birds.
“I constructed a small poultry farm beside the pond so the waste from the meat bird can be re-used again in the pond to maintain its colour.
“In 2014, I then decided to start selling eggs as well so I made two cages specifically for egg-laying birds.
“The Ministry of Agriculture then noticed the work I was doing in the village and I was offered a grant of $20,000 to extend the business.”
He said with the $20,000 his egg bird cage went up to four compared with the two he started with. He also increased the number of birds to 200 and was earning efficiently from it.
“Annually, I earned $18,000 from just the meat bird and eggs. I had a lot of demand on it.
“I wanted to sell it in the capital, but I was at a loss because of transportation affecting the products. It was being transported in carriers so it wasn’t good for the egg business.
“Even with the transportation barrier, customers, they would come all the way to the village to buy, so I had my market here instead of going to the urban area.
“I have customers from Suva, Monasavu, Laselevu, Naboro, Sawanikula Primary School, nearby schools, nurses and teachers who lived close by.”
He said his village shop was operating well too, but had a lot of competitors.
“I always make sure I have enough supplies for villagers and try to offer them reasonable prices on items,” he said.
He said anything could be achieved if people had a positive attitude towards life.
With his farms located a few kilometres away from the village, Mr Tikotikovakasiga has to walk a distance and also cross a river several times to get to this farm.