Picture: Marie Firomena Kaitu’u on routine check as Meat Inspector at the Fiji Meats Industry Board slaughterhouse in Nakasi
Leaving the comforts of her island home, the love of her parents, and the familiar company of friends and families, Marie Firomena Kaitu’u travelled 401 miles from Rotuma to Fiji to undertake tertiary education.
Originally from Noa’tau in Rotuma with maternal links to Juju, the then teen-aged Marie had her sights set on joining the nursing profession.
“My dream job was to become a nurse but after completing my secondary education, unfortunately, the nursing 2005 intake was put on hold. Instead, I was advised by our Careers teacher to try other fields,” she said.
However, her family encouraged her to apply for a scholarship as it was the dream of students on the island to come to Fiji for their tertiary studies.
“Agriculture studies was never my option to study because farming was what we did on the island for survival but because the nursing intake was closed I had no other option but to just choose Agriculture,” Marie said.
Marie applied for the former Public Service Commission scholarship while she continued to help her parents on the island.
“Names of successful scholarship recipients appeared in the newspapers and because paper deliveries on the island depends on the arrival of ships and planes, we were unaware of the selected names,” said Marie.
“Later one weekend we received a call from one of my uncles in Suva who informed my parents that my name was in the newspaper,” recalled Marie.
Marie vividly remembered how she despised the news as her heart was still with nursing. Only due to the financial burden on her parents if she continued to pursue her desires that she reluctantly accepted the scholarship to study Diploma in Tropical Agriculture.
“I left Rotuma to start a new path without my parents and family members and enrolled at the Fiji College of Agriculture (FCA) in Koronivia,” she said.
“At Koronivia, I discovered that Agriculture had more branches and I was glad I found out that there is more to just planting and selling,” she said.
Marie graduated from FCA in 2007 and was employed as a Farm Hand at the Dairy Farms Fiji Limited in Navua before joining the Ministry of Agriculture in 2010.
“It has always been said that when God closes one door he opens another one with bigger and greater things and we may have our plans but only His prevails,” she said.
“I never made it to nursing school, I was disheartened but God showed me another path and this path allowed me to nurse animals,” she said.
“Most of my working career was in Dairy, I also got to experience and visit places that while in Rotuma I never thought I would be visiting,” she said.
“In the course of my work I had to travel the high seas to get to islands and trek through the forests to get to a particular village.”
Marie was a Dairy Industry Support staff for two years before becoming a Temporary Livestock officer based in Navua. She took up the post of a Meat Inspector and moved up the livestock staff ladder becoming a Dairy Inspector before becoming an Agriculture Officer.
“I am mostly mistaken for a Fijian lady so I made an effort to learn the Fijian and the Hindi languages for field purposes.”
“There were experienced people that coached me along the way and added to my newly acquired language. Also, while I was in Navua, we had to walk from Naitonitoni to the PA’s office to fax our weekly updates to the Central office,” she said with a laugh.
The trip she took to Fiji in 2005 was also the last time she saw her parents and her island home.
“The annual Rotuma Day roadshow of 2014 gave me the opportunity to return home and see my family and friends again, this time as a representative of the Animal Health and Production Division of the Ministry of Agriculture,” she smiled with memory.
“I was approached by the former Director Tomasi Tunabuna and grabbed the opportunity”
Marie in her strive to equip and educate herself secured a 3 years NZ Aid scholarship at the Massey University studying Bachelor in Animal Science majoring in Animal Welfare.
“It is an exciting course and I look forward to finishing it but now because of COVID-19 we are released and will resume studies when we have the all-clear,” she said.
The Meat inspector who is also the Agriculture Officer in charge of Sheep is now continuing her service to the Agriculture sector.
“Learn from experience people, don’t always think you know everything even if you are highly qualified, always stay humble and broaden your mind to learn new things,” was the message from Marie.