Picture: Etuate at his Yaqona Plantation
Growing up in a single parent family, Etuate Makata looked to the land for support and the land has not failed him.
The 22-year-old of Banikea village in the Tikina Lekutu is the youngest in a family of three sisters with the absence of a father, he shouldered the responsibility of being the only son in the family.
Etuate’s father passed away when he was 10 years old, as a young boy and still in school he felt for his mother and thought to do something for the family as an only son.
The idea of taking responsibility was stuck in his head till he reached Form 5 at the local school and decided to provide for his family.
“For us in rural areas as less developed as this we are often confined in the environment we are brought up in,” he said.
“Our parents put food on the table, provide clothes for us, everything they do is through farming,” said Etuate.
“At the rate I was going, I knew I won’t be able to secure a future for myself academically but that did not deter me from achieving my dream of paying my own fees and providing for my family,” he said.
The circumstances Etuate faced from an early childhood fashioned him into a strong-willed youth having passion in farming to the extent of enrolling at the Agriculture school.
“In 2015 I started planting 300 yaqona plants with a target to pay for my fees,” he said.
“I may have not enrolled at medical or flying school but I surely paid my tuition through to the Navuso Agriculture School, something I loved and have not regretted as I achieved it through farming,” he said.
“A fellow villager who attended the same school inspired me and would return and share his experience in the Agriculture School,” he said.
“As a young farmer and growing up in a farming community, this is the perfect definition of a tertiary to us, to broaden our knowledge on what will provide a future for us, the land.”
Because of the love he has for his mother Ema Vakabu originally from Nakawakawa village in Wainunu, Bua, he paved his own future.
“Over the years I see her struggle to make ends meet and it pains me to see her suffering alone, so I promised that I will toil the land,” he said.
Attending the Navuso Agriculture School meant leaving his comfort zone of Banikea across the ocean to Suva.
“The school is in Suva so I was away from the farm and my family who are miles away and it was my mother who was the caretaker of the replanted yaqona farm,” he said.
“I replanted after the harvest before leaving for Muainase and was reluctant as I knew it will again be an additional burden to my mother but she kept insisting so I had to allow her to do so,” said Etuate.
“The maintenance of the farm went till school holidays when I would return home and spend hours up on the farm,” he said.
“As a young man I knew this is an opportunity for me to expand my knowledge in agriculture is sufficient before I run the mile of my manhood,” he said.
“At the agriculture school, they equipped me with the knowledge of farming as a business and all the ropes and concepts of being successful in agriculture.”
From the lessons he had learned from the school, he is not only planting yaqona but also planting assorted vegetables with his mother for home consumption.
“Saving and investing again on the land is what I am doing right now and having a target set for each plant grown,” he smiled.
The young lad who had experienced the turmoil of life and has 800 yaqona plants on the ground targets to build a home for his mother from the earnings of his yaqona farm.
“I am starting little by little but I will get there and I know I will, I have seen what farming can do and I am thankful.”
“I would like to challenge those that are stuck with no or less money, to look to the land to help you, start with what you have, do not think you are too old to do something, and procrastination is a negative element to achieving greater things,” he said.
“Make it happen and watch the amazing wonders the land can do to you but you must also have passion in doing it only then will you succeed.”