Picture : Losalini Matavesi in her yaqona farm.
Securing a family’s future is a driving force that often dictates the actions of the common working class man and woman.
This fact of life was a factor that motivated the establishment of the Matavesi Farm in Seaqaqa, Vanua Levu as it gave birth to the farm’s matriarch, Losalini Matavesi’s decision to opt for farming rather than work in an office cubicle.
“Unexpected things can happen at our workplaces, it could come in the form of a dismissal or being told that you are being laid off and often, people are unprepared for these circumstances,” she said.
“You could be giving your all and performing your best at work but all of a sudden, you could be told that your services are no longer required, which is why I always advise that it is best we involve ourselves in other ventures as a back-up if these things do indeed happen and we shouldn’t be taken by surprise when it does.
This thought led Losalini and her husband, Vulaqoro Matavesi to commit themselves to farming as they treaded into unfamiliar territory in 2018 and purchased a 47-acre piece of land at Lalakoro Settlement in Muanidevo.
The Matavesi family hit the ground running and began toiling their land by planting yaqona and pineapple as their main crops; “The cost of living nowadays is high and we cannot really rely on our salaries to meet the demands of our children and our family anymore,” said Losalini.
“We’ve planted yaqona as our long term crop and have focused on pineapple as our short term crop to subsidize during rainy days and for the development of our farm,” she said.
The family have adjusted to life on a farm, and their usual days are spent with Losalini and her six children in their farming gear working busily on their pineapple farm with a game of carom to round off a day’s work.
“This is our second lot of pineapple that we are harvesting now, our first harvest was in December last year and we earned a reasonable income from it, the money we earned from that harvest assisted in the full renovation of our farm house with a few extensions,” she smiled.
“Apart from thinking of a backup source of income, farming has always been my passion because I knew my capabilities as a strong woman,” she added.
A year after, the Matavesi farm is adorned with 1,200 Yaqona plants, 1,000 Dalo plants, 2 acres of Pineapple, and Ginger, 2 acres of Cassava, Vegetables as well Sandalwood for the long term.
Completing their farm are livestock such as ducks, poultry birds, cows, pigs and goats.
The couple are both civil servants by profession, and the family make good use their weekends on the farm with their children; “The weekends are our farm days, we do not employ anyone on the farm, everything we have achieved is from my husband, my children and family members,” she said.
“When we started farming and coming on weekends, it was disturbing for my children but we taught them the way of farm life and its benefits on us and now they have adjusted really well,” beamed Losalini.
“With passion, we experimented with our planting techniques with advice from Agricultural Officers and that is how we expanded.
Apart from the extension and full renovation of their farm house from the farm revenue, the family have other plans in place.
“The education and the welfare of my six children is a priority and we are planning to buy a house in Suva and not on loan and improve the water source to the farm as at the moment we are using a well and the river that runs beside the farm,” she said.
“We are also planning to utilize the other vacant land on other cash crops to plant more yaqona and practice phase planting,” said Mrs. Matavesi.
She teaches her children the beauty of family time and to appreciate they reap from farming as through farming, they can, slowly but surely get what they want.
“There is shared responsibility around the farm house and on the farm, instead of phones, computers and televisions, they are to feed the livestock, collect firewood and amuse themselves around the farm,” she said.
The enthusiasm of farming is not only visible on the parents but on the children as well as harvest time is always looked forward to.
“This is the second harvest of pineapple, with the vegetables and other crops the harvest is taken to the Seaqaqa market with my children who are always eager,” she said of her market.
“There is nothing to be ashamed of, you want to live you ought to do what brings food and income to the table. Farming is not only for a certain group of people, it is for everyone as there are lots of positive outcomes for farming, from extra income to eating healthy and fresh,” she proudly said.
“Having a big farm or the money earned from harvests is nothing to boast about but the idea behind having a farm and getting things done from farming is what matters,” advised Losalini.
The family believes their spirituality and religious upbringing has greatly contributed to their success of late.
“We are faced with challenges, challenges that drive us to plant more and to keep moving with our motivation about the farm and its impacts to ensure this is also achieved and we overcome them with faith.