Tuesday, August 21, 2007


SINCE age 12, Mata Prasad has been a dalo farmer, helping his dad and younger brothers at Qaravalu, Delaivuna, on the Garden Island of Taveuni.
Today, more than 44 years into the farming business, Mata owns a house in Suva, a car and tractor on the Garden Island, 40,000 dalo plants, 5000 yaqona plants and a five-bedroom home on his farm.
Asked what his revenue is like, Mata smiled and said: "Good money. Very good".
"It comes with a lot of hard work and to make your farming business a successful one, depends on the farmer and his discipline, dedication and commitment to his farm," Mata said.
"I started farming dalo and yaqona in Class Seven at South Taveuni Indian School and I've always reminded myself to be faithful to my work and remain committed."
Mata believes this reminder has brought him a long way from 1963 as a student.
The eldest of six, Mata left school at an early age to help his dad, Saha Deo, who was sick and needed help with farm work.
"I pulled out of school and helped my dad on the farm from planting the dalo to harvesting it and selling the dalo," he said.
"Those days we used to sell a bundle of dalo for 50cents, with one selling at 10cents each and if we sell to the market for export we receive 20 shillings a pound for dalo," Mata said.
"And that was a lot of money during those days as the cost of living was much cheaper compared to the cost today."
Although the price of dalo fluctuates in the export market, Mata said having such a business was good as it had no employment conditions such as qualification, salary and retirement age.
"I start and finish work on the farm whenever I want, take my leave any time and even decide on the duration, and will only retire when I can't walk any more," he joked.
When he started farming, Mata used to plant about 500 dalo plants a day but because age is catching up on him, now at 56, he and his workers plant about 300 dalo shoots."
Mata begins farm work at 6am and returns at midday for lunch, has a good rest and returns to his farm at 3pm.
"I return home at around 5pm to 6pm, and at times mix a bowl of grog but I have to be in bed by 10pm so I can wake up early the next day to start work again.
"Although I have my own working conditions, I don't abuse the situation I'm in because if I do, it will affect my business and everything I worked hard for over the past will disappear into thin air.
"I don't want that to happen because this is my livelihood and my source of income not only for me but for my family and two children studying in university," Mata said.
He has four children and it is his dream that his future generation continue with the farming business.
"I know the sweetness of this business and how, white collar job, people work years to save thousands of dollars compared to dalo farming which can be collected in eight months once the crop matures.
"That's why I want my grandchildren and their children to continue because they don't have to answer to anybody except remain faithful to God and to their farming business," Mata said.

Adapted from Fijitimes Online