THE devastation wrought by natural disasters is continually being felt and realized by all who are in the path of its unrelenting destruction, leaving people reeling in its aftermath.
One such farming family who unfortunately had to bear the full brunt of the most recent tropical cyclones and depressions in Fiji are Nitesh Sharma and his family but thankfully enough, under the Farms-CARE initiative, a rehabilitation program provided by the Ministry of Agriculture, this family was able to get back on their feet.
The floods that accompanied Tropical Cyclone Josie and Keni in April this year had a telling effect on Nitesh’s farm in Nasikasika, Korotari in Cakaudrove, which is a flood prone area situated 160 kilometers off Savusavu, as all his vegetables and produce were washed away by flood waters.
However, this did not deter his passion for farming and Nitesh grabbed the Farms-CARE assistance program with both hands, one which he has shown gratitude towards Government for as it laid the foundations for his farming again, seeing as he had to start from scratch once more.
“Flooding is a major problem we face here as most of our farms are just beside the river and some- times during floods, all our pro- duce together with our farm are washed away leaving the debris, rocks and big trees behind,” Mr. Sharma said.
“We never lost hope but started things again with a positive attitude knowing that the Government of the day was supporting farmers and this motivated me as I have no regrets on being a farmer,” he said.
“The Ministry of Agriculture supported and assisted me especially with this Farms-CARE program which benefited my whole family as we managed to start things again as farming is the only source of income we have here.”
Mr. Sharma added, “Apart from the Farms-CARE program, the Ministry of Agriculture has also assisted me with seeds, fertilizers/ chemicals, and with a greenhouse to raise seeds and plants during the offseason”.
Coming from a farming back- ground and taking control of their farm at the age of 21 was a progressive undertaking for the now 40-year-old as he had to take responsibility of their farm following the passing of his father.
“My father passed away in 1999 and someone had to step up and take responsibility and because I was not doing well in school, I decided to take control of the farm and send my other two brothers for further education and today, one of them is teacher.”
“I have been farming since I was 13 years old as I was always been interested in the farm and I used to help my dad around our farm from that very early age and after leaving school at Form 3, I started to help my dad in vegetable and cane farming as I felt my future was in farming so I decided to farm on a full-time basis,” Mr. Sharma said.
“Since I began farming, I have never seen any Government helping and assisting farmers like the current Government is doing or has done until now.”
“Nowadays, farming has been made simpler compared to before as the Ministry now has the ma- chines available to assist us farmers in ploughing the farms and for land clearing as we only have to pay half the price for these services, something which I am very grateful for,” he smiles.
“The Government has assisted me lot in the past few years and I have never received such assistance like this before,” the humble farmer attested.
Mr. Sharma has managed to make a life for himself and his family from agriculture and has also ventured into livestock farming to complement his vegetable farming.
“So far from the vegetable farming I have managed to extend my house and have also managed to start up my goat farm, where five years back I bought a piece of land, fencing materials and stocks worth of $4,300,” he said.
“I also sent my brother to university and paid $32,000 for his education, and all of this money was through farming alone,” the proud Nasikasika farmer said.
“I have managed to achieve a lot for my family these past few years because the support we, the farmers, have received from the Government is benefitting us in the long run and I advise other people and farmers who are wanting to leave the villages and go to the urban areas, that Government is doing a lot for ordinary Fijians but it is our responsibility to work hard and prove that we can achieve a lot ourselves.
Mr. Sharma sells his vegetables daily at the Labasa Market and earns about $350-$500 weekly.
He plans to extend his vegetable and livestock farm in the near future with the aim to purchase an- other piece of land to build another house for his children around Labasa town.