Wednesday, August 8, 2007


Written by Arieta Vunileba
THERE'S just something about being out in the rural areas that makes any city slicker never want to return to his or her urban abode.
And that is the feeling a couple of us pen pushers felt when we went into the heart of Viti Levu two weeks ago.
So when an opportunity presented itself by way of the visit by the independent audit team investigating Fijian institutions to the upper reaches of Nadarivatu, we jumped at the chance and truly enjoyed every minute we were there except, of course, for the bumpy ride we had to endure.
On reaching Lewa Village, we were taken to the home of Kuru Toutou, who is originally from Saivou, in Ra, but married to Isikeli Toutou.
She comes from a family of seven siblings and was taught from a very young age to toil the land a teaching she eventually passed on to her husband.
She's the third eldest in her family, a family deeply entrenched in farming.
Now her husband is more into planting dalo and cassava and, like others in his village, he is involved in forestry as well.
When they got married more than two decades ago, Kuru taught her husband to plant other cash crops like Chinese cabbage, lettuce, carrots, capsicums, spring onions, eggplants and much more.
She said with most of these vegetables, it only took three months to mature and money was guaranteed.
She said these were vegetables and crops she and her siblings learnt to plant when they were younger and money earned from selling these was used to pay for school fees.
So knowing the fruits of planting these veggies had potential to flourish, she convinced her husband to take a step away from conventional crops and try a hand at these cash crops.
It was a step that neither of them regretted.
They have four children, two of whom are teachers, one at high school and the other at primary level.
Another son returned to the village even though he had completed his high school education and was on the verge of joining the National Youth Band but was called by his parents to return to the village to take over the family's farming commitments.
Kuru says this was done because she and her husband were getting old and were beginning to slow down on their daily farming trips.
The couple's youngest daughter recently completed Form Seven and after searching for jobs in the city, decided to go back to the village and farm the land as well.
From selling vegetables, she has been able to open up a little shop near the family home where she sells mostly canned food items that are an everyday need in the village.
In any village, the success or wealth of any family is often gauged by how well the family is provided for in terms of housing, education and general well being.
Kuru's family can be said to be one of the wealthier families in Lewa Village because they have three houses all neatly built side by side, a sort of meeting house built on a mound atop the three houses and, of course, the little shop that belongs to the couple's daughter.
All four children's education has been paid from money earned from selling cash crops and Kuru says, in any harvesting week, the family can earn a minimum of $400.
Although they did not have an inkling of how to manage and record their finances, Kuru says her husband kept an old diary with records of all the money they made from sales and the expenses they incurred.
That, she said, was all for accountability's sake.
With all of their children being able to sustain themselves now, Kuru and her husband have started saving the money that had been going towards the education of their children. In addition to the crops they plant, they have a chicken coop and own a number of cows.
She says the vegetables they harvest were often sold to middlemen from Lautoka Market and there was never any problem in the sale of their crops.
For the many years they have tilled the land, Kuru and her family have never been denied anything and for that she says, there is money in the land and people should just toil it well to know the benefits they can reap.

Adapted from Fijitimes Online