I know that Lomaivuna is a long way from babasiga land and the soil there is rich and wonderfully suited to intensive farming, but here is an example about growing cassava that could be copied in Macuata. This story was in both the Fiji Times and Fiji Daily Post - pic here from Fiji Times.
The following story has been reposted from the Fiji Daily Post - from a government handout without editing it seems.
Cassava farming in Lomaivuna
Lomaivuna, better known for ginger production, is also well known as a producer of root crops and vegetables in the Central Division. Needless to say farmers in Lomaivuna are so dedicated to farming that every farmer has a success story to tell. While travelling along the circular road that link all farms in Lomaivuna, one can see big blocks of dalo, cassava, ginger, pineapples and many other crops planted on the sloping hills and flatlands utilising every piece of available land.
Among the root crops, cassava is one of the most common crops supplied by the farmers in the area to the exporters and the local markets. A multi- racial farming community, Lomaivuna is well represented by highly dedicated Fijian, Indian and even Chinese farmers.
One of the farmers who have come to call Lomaivuna home is Hublasi Lal (53) who hails from Qarawalu in Taveuni. In 1966, when only eight years old, he accompanied his parents and siblings to settle in Lomaivuna.
According to Lal, at that time, the late President, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara had recruited around 200 farmers from Taveuni to work in the banana plantation in Lomaivuna.
“The first batches of farmers were called in 1964 and then 1966 another set of farmers were recruited,” Mr Lala recalled. “The farmers were provided with 10 acre blocks each and a house to earn their living and work in the banana plantation”, he added.
He recounted that unfortunately in the late 60s, several hurricanes struck Fiji and badly damaged the banana plantations. As a result the New Zealand-based company which was operating had to close down due to bankruptcy. He said some farmers were lucky to get the opportunity to stay in Lomaivuna and continue with their farming work. “I had a strong farming background and since my father was an expert farmer we started with root crops and vegetable farming,” said Mr Lal.
While helping his father on the farm, Mr Lal also managed to complete his education. Instead of looking for white collar jobs, he chose to have a farm. “I was passionate about farming from the very beginning and my determination and hard work has made me an established farmer today,” said Mr Lal. As days passed by, Lal gained a lot of experience in growing and managing his crop farm and began raising the level of his farm production.
Married with four children, he realised that only through working hard on the farm he can earn enough money to get his two daughters married and the younger daughter through school. His son has already got a job.
Mr Lal owns ten acres of Native leased land which is due to expire in coming five years. His brothers are also among the top farmers in Lomaivuna involved in large scale root crop farming.
Besides being a hard working farmer, Mr Lal has been an advisory counsellor for the area for more than 18 years. He also used to do part time driving to transport the farmers produce from Lomaivuna to Nausori and Suva markets. He is also a social worker and a trustee of the Lomaivuna High School. Over the years he had been encouraging students to get a proper education.
Mr Lal believes in cash crop farming and he grows cassava, dalo, ginger, pineapple and vegetables. On his farm, half acre of land is cultivated with ginger, one and half with pineapples and three acres are covered with cassava plantation. “There is a big potential for growing cassava in Lomaivuna and with the availability of the market it is a good opportunity for people to pursue as a good source of income,” he added. “I have grown two varieties of cassava, the pink cassava and the Nadelei variety which fetches good demand both locally and overseas,” said Mr Lal. Mr Lal added that they have formed farmers youth group under which group members share their farming experience and knowledge.
He has grown cassava in different stages of production and extreme care is taken at every stage of growth.
While he prefers to do farm alone, sometimes he hires labourers when there is a lot of work at the farm.
“One thing good about growing cassava is that it is a year round crop and cassava can withstand dry as well as rainy weather conditions,” said Mr Lal. Lal added that he has been in this business for a very long time and his experience says that land preparation is the kingpin in getting good produce out of the farm. Mr Lal said that farms are mostly on the hills so he is bullocks rather than machines for land preparation.
“I normally hire labourers to prepare mounds mixed with poultry manure at good spacing. Poultry manure is applied to nourish the soil,” he added. “As soon as the land is prepared planting materials are sown, plant care starts at that very stage.”
When the plants are a month old, Paraquat is sprayed to control the weeds. He went on to say that at the seventh month N.P.K is applied and almost a year later, the plants are ready for the market. In between the growing stage, he ensures that the farm sanitation is maintained to ensure that the crop is pest, disease and weed free. The plants are helped on their growth by the perfect climatic conditions in Lomaivuna.
Mr Lal hires labourers to harvest the crop and as soon as the first crops are harvested another set is planted to ensure a continuous supply. He makes his own planting materials and sometimes gives the surplus to neighbours. “We are very fortunate that we don’t have to look for market as the demand and price for cassava is quite good. I sell my crops to Balthan exports and sometimes the surplus goes to the Nausori and Suva market,” he said. “Farm gate price for cassava keeps on fluctuating and currently the price is $0.40 per kilogram but some times it goes to as high as $0.80 per kilogram as well”. Mr Lal said normally a bag of cassava is sold to the middlemen in the markets at $20 per 50kg bag. He added that while the rising price of agro inputs is a common issue, it is incumbent on the farmers to make the necessary adjustments to cope with the price fluctuations.
Apart from cassava farming his pineapples are also ready to be supplied to the market especially at this time with the approaching festive season when the demand is usually high. Mr Lal said it is good that a lot of infrastructural development is currently happening in Lomaivuna and very soon people will be blessed with the electricity service.
Agriculture Extension officers frequently visit the farmers and assist them under the Departments capital programmes.
Mr Lal has also been assisted under the Rural and Outer Island project of the Ministry with agro inputs in a bid to increase his farm production. He is also frequently liaising with the Agriculture office for technical and advisory services and he advised others to work in collaboration with the Department. Mr Lal encouraged the farmers to work hard, sacrifice time, be loyal and determined to go to the top by always raising their level of farming.
Monika Mala - Ministry of Primary Industries