The usual errand of herding and rounding up flock on the hills of Qalitawarau gave birth to an idea for a future in farming for young Jone Madraiwiwi back in 1982.
The task delegated to him when he was 16 years old, motivated him to build a beef empire for himself on the Qalitawarau hilltops of his village of Korolevu in the district of Noikoro in Navosa.
“While growing up, my uncle Jiutasa Saumalumu delegated a task for me to round up the flock for the night.
“I used to ponder upon the future and see myself having my own cattle farm and not having to round another’s stock,” he said.
This idea gathered momentum in 2013 when he became a member of the Navosa Livestock Cooperative Limited (NLCL), which was formed to assist beef farmers in Navosa excel in the breeding and marketing of beef to the market.
“I hadn’t started my stock then but I was following the members around, attending meetings and field days to broaden my mind and knowledge,” he said.
He made up his mind in 2015 to establish his own beef farm as he had mustered enough confidence through his affiliation and by being a faithful member of the NLCL.
Securing a lease from his Yavusa Koroivakabeka, he started his 400 acres beef farm, rearing 41 cattle on the ridges of Qalitawarau.
36 years down the line, the now 52-year-old Jone Madraiwiwi has fully accomplished his dreams of having his own beef farm and has handed down the reins to his son, Nasoni Tuigaloa to manage the farm.
“I have handed the management of the beef farm to my son to practically showcase his Commercial Agriculture studies.
Ironing out all minor details and with things in full operation, the Madraiwiwi family, with the inclusion of his four boys and a girl share all farm responsibilities.
While Jone is on their second farm in Nanukunuku settlement in Draiba, where the family is leasing from the Mataqali Bitolevu in Draiba, his son continues to run the beef farm.
“All the documentation, the processing fees and the money for purchasing of the land was made possible through the revenue from the farm in Draiba,” said Mr. Madraiwiwi.
“My father purchased the 5 acres land and after the time of his passing, we handled the reins and continued planting cassava, watermelon, tobacco, pumpkin, maize, and yaqona.
“Having the farm in Draiba is favorable as it lies along the main road and transportation to markets is easy and we supply to the Sigatoka, Suva, Nadi and Lautoka markets.”
“In a harvest, we can achieve a total revenue of $300-$400 for vegetables and tobacco harvest could be approximately $10,000 and all the money earned is dedicated to the cattle farm, the education of my children and my family’s well-being,” said the evergreen farmer.
Jone apart from being a farmer is also a chainsaw operator in the area, he uses his skills to assist people with the felling of trees for cash and in Navosa exchange of money for rendered services is sometimes difficult, payment comes in the form of livestock – cattle or horses.
“I love helping them because of the fact that they are my own flesh and blood and money is not always available and development is scarce so any exchange is acceptable,” he said.
Like all other farmers in Navosa, he has had to endure the rough terrains and unfavorable road condition but he aims to purchase a 5 tonne truck in the near future to somewhat alleviate the severity of the conditions.
“Since the farm is far from access roads, and the road condition is still a problem we are planning on purchasing the truck to enable us to load cattle closer to the farm and start breeding goats as well,” he said.
“Although we will still have to cross rivers and walk down kilometers of slopes, this will lighten our load and struggles a bit and I am hoping to increase my stock.”
“In the past, I used to give my cattle for village functions hence the decrease in stock but now I have made up my mind to close the gates to allow the cattle to breed and increase my stock to a hundred,” he smiled.
He has dedicated his life to farming and has witnessed firsthand what farming had contributed to his life as he continuously encourages his children to take up farming, detailing its pros and cons.
“I always encourage my children to venture into beef farming and to purchase their own in order for them to learn and to know the struggles that one has to endure, it’s a life lesson as no one will be spoon-fed,” said Jone.
His advice, “Always work towards your goals to achieve it because we rise and fall based on how hard we work”, words he has lived by and something which undoubtedly he will continue to do for the rest of his life.