Josefa and Karalaini infront of their house.
From a struggling yaqona farmer to a village money lender.
This is what the Partnership in High Value Agriculture Project has done for 54 year old Josefa Nagatu and his wife Karalaini who live in Naga Village in Nadrau District in the Province of Navosa.
The Partnership in High Value Agriculture (PHVA) project in Nadarivatu which was launched in August last year sees farmers planting and selling vegetables like tomatoes, capsicum and even celery during the off season period. This has seen farmers earning money they never dreamed of before and their standard of living vastly improved.
The PHVA Project is funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and is implemented in Fiji by Partners in Community Development Fiji (PCDF) and the Fijian Government through the Department of Agriculture plays an advisory role.
Karalaini clearly recounts the time when they had to look around for money to buy sugar and other basic food items.
“We are third generation yaqona farmers and my husband was adamant to remain one. In October our sugar was running low and my husband said to harvest our grog which was not yet ready but we heard about the PHVA project and my sons and I convinced my husband to try it out. Our first harvest in the second week of December last year saw us harvest two gallons and one bucket of tomatoes, this saw us rake in over $150. This was more than enough for our sugar and basic necessities. So from January to March this year, we have harvested 9 crates of tomatoes and have made over $9,000. ”
Josefa says the income from the PHVA project in Nadarivatu has made a huge difference in their lives. He leads the PCDF team to their residence just a few metres downill from the Naga Village Community Hall. His wife Karalaini points to their corrugated iron house.
“When you plant yaqona, you have to wait three to four years but with PHVA crops, it is just three months. That house is the fruit of the tomatoes and planting offseason vegetables all thanks to the PHVA project. With the $9, 000 we got in the past 3 months we have bought our TV, paid for my son’s educational expenses at Fiji National University and also bought the things needed to build our new house.”
When Karalaini married Josefa back in the 80s, they lived in a traditional bure up until last year. So for over 30 years, Karailaini has had to struggle – carting water to her bure and raising three boys. Now she lives in her own corrugated iron house with Sky Pacific channels, a TV, and speaker system, adding that they have started helping others as well.
“Other villagers have been planting tomatoes for over 13 years but they are not having the returns we are having. Thanks to the training from the PHVA project, we have been able to save and realize our dreams. Now people come to us to loan money. So you would call us village money lenders.”
The rationale for the PHVA project is that smallholder farmers have good resource potential and the ability to produce marketable surpluses that would increase their incomes and reduce poverty, but they are not often able to maximize this potential.
The farmers have undergone farm business training such as budgeting as well as agriculture husbandry and how to better use their resources and farming tools.
PCDF has one project officer stationed in Nadarivatu and he is assisted by three volunteers from the surrounding villages.