Tuesday, July 29, 2008


He is originally from Sawaieke in Gau but has made his life among the Indian farmers in Lokia on the east bank of the Sigatoka River.

He can pass to be an Indian farmer, if he is sitting among them. This is because he is fluent in the language. He is the Lomaiviti Provincial Council chairman Ratu Jolame Lewanavanua. Ratu Jo is more popular to the people in Nadroga/Navosa than among his very own.

He has been living there for the past 37 years and earns his dollars from toiling the fertile soil on the banks of the Sigatoka River. Being a successful vegetable farmer is not a bed of roses.

It involves sacrifice, hard work and a lot of faith in God. It all began when he bought 10 acres of freehold land in Lokia past Raiwaqa Village about 30 years ago and began his life from nothing except his fork and spade. He made the move after he realised that his farming in Narairaiwaqa, an island off Bau was not getting the return he anticipated.

How he went to Bau is a long story. Born to Ratu Filipe Lewanavanua and Makereta Tabuatoga of Vusaradave in Bau and bred in Vunitarawau in Suva, the Gau chief was what you can call a town boy. But he was always interested in farming despite his father's wish for him to be a doctor.

His dad was an epidemiologist who had a vision for his six children but Ratu Jo defied it. He decided to drop out of Marist Brothers High School when he was in Form Five and asked his mother if he could go to Bau.

With his mother's connection he managed to go to Narairawaqa and stayed there for five years similar to English castaway Robinson Crusoe. It was also one of those years that he met his wife Adi Kinisimere from the nearby Viwa Island. While on the island, he used to go to and sell his vegetables at the Suva Market.

"Since I have to go early in the morning, I used to go and have my bath at the public toilet there," he said. Ratu Jo used to be the only male vendor among the women that used to gather there. "My father used to come to the market early on Saturday morning and asked me to come back home."

But Ratu Jo was determined that he was cut out to be a farmer and a successful one too.
During those days at the market, he was impressed with the quality of vegetables from Sigatoka Valley and wished that he could go there.

His wish was granted when he saw a piece of land on sale up there. The rest is history. The man from Gau's contribution to his community, in the province he is staying in and Sigatoka will not go unnoticed. The Sigatoka community had confidence in him and trusted him to lead their Coral Coast Carnival.

He is currently a member of the National Council for Making A Better Fiji. He has four children who all grew up in Lokia and spoke both the main languages fluently.
And their interest also lies in farming. 10 things

l He never worked for anyone
l He has never received a salary in his life
l His father, an epidemiologist, was the one that introduced frog in Fiji from Hawaii
l His father took frogs everywhere in Fiji but not on his island- Gau
l Lived on an island off Bau- Narairaiwaqa for five years like Robinson Crusoe
l Speaks fluent Hindi and is the only Fijian family in the area he lives in Lokia, Sigatoka
l First Fijian meeting he chaired was when he was appointed to be deputy chairman of Lomaiviti Provincial Council in 2004
l He is a lay preacher of the Methodist Church in Fiji
l He loves helping people
l He is retiring, but gives advice to his two sons that run his farm

Adapted from Fijitimes online