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FROM LAUTOKA TO LOMAIVUNA
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04 May 2011

 

Kamlesh Nair is a gracious host. She welcomes us into herhomestead in Lomaivuna, Naitasiri with an offer of a soft drinkand chocolate biscuits, a welcome treat after a 40 minute drivefrom Suva. Kamlesh’s husband Keshwan, 51, is away on family business in the West with one of their sons so it’s left to her to meetand interview with the team from the Fiji Development Bank.
 

The 45 year-old along with her husband Keshwan, 51, are originally from Sigatoka and Tavua respectively. In 2000, the couple, their two sons and a daughter, left their home in Lautoka for Lomaivuna, where today, they live and manage a 10 acre farm growing root crops and livestock.


The decision to move to their current location was influenced
during a visit to Keshwan’s brother who was making a living as a carrier driver in Lomaivuna in 1999.


“Keshwan’s brother was the one who suggested to Keshwan to
move here and do farming and that’s how we came to Lomaivuna,” Kamlesh said.


“When we got the lease for the 10 acres, we went to the Fiji
Development Bank for a loan to clear the land and plant and that loan got us started.”


The move from the bright lights of the city to the quiet backwaters
of Naitasiri particularly at such a troubling period in Fiji’s political history was a watershed moment for the family. Kamlesh says that it was the best decision for the time.

 
“At that time, Keshwan was working as a mechanic for a bus
company and I was working as a sales assistant in one of the shops in Lautoka and no matter how hard we worked, the pay we earned did not get any better and we had a growing family to think about,” Kamlesh said.


“We did that for 15 years and we couldn’t see the return like we do
now with our hard work on the farm.”


Today, the Nair’s farm is thriving – every inch of it is under farm.
This is unusual as most farms of this size holding usually have only 80% under planting and the remaining 20% fallowing.


The Nairs started off with dalo, then in 2002 expanded to include a
broiler and a piggery, the latter a rather unusual choice but then again, not so when you think of the work ethic the family has when it comes to farming in general – no crop or livestock is beneath them. The piggery side of the business has since ceased but there is discussion amongst family members to restart it.


FDB’s broiler facility caters for site clearing and leveling,
construction of a chicken shed, installation of water tanks and pumps as well as contractual work on maintenance of roads, drains etc. The Bank also offers a similar facility for the development of pig, dairy, cattle and sheep farming.


The manure produced by the chickens in the broiler helps
supplement the farm’s need for fertilizer and, with 4,000 birds in there at any one time that is a fair bit of manure produced to offset that costly problem.


Three years ago the Nairs went into ginger farming and this short
term cash crop has brought them fair returns of about 85 cents a kilogramme. Their February harvest yielded around 10.5 tonnes.


In February, the family sold their last harvest of two tonnes of
cassava for between 40 to 60 cents a kilo and dalo for $1.10 a kilo – which at the time was extremely good given that domestic farm gate price for dalo hit a floor of 80 cents a kilo at the time. The dalo and cassava were exported.


 
“Right now we have three acres under dalo, six acres under cassava
and one under ginger. To save on planting costs, we make sure that we retain cutting for the next planting season,” Kamlesh said when asked about it.


“Most people don’t keep planting material for the next season and
it costs money to buy new planting material. We have had people ask us for planting material and Keshwan, being the nice man that is, gives them away instead of selling it because that’s just how he is,” she said laughing.


The family plan to also set up an egg laying operation on their farm
in the very near future.

 

 

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