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Written By : Sun Fiji Newsroom. Boubale Settlement in Bulileka, Labasa has been home to 39-year-old Dinesh Chand and his family since he was a young man and they would not want to trade their haven for anywhere else in the world.
If you actually visit his farm, you can only gape in awe at the assorted vegetables all lined up in pretty rows on his farm and the breathtaking scenery that surrounds it.
This has only been made possible through sheer determination and hard work through concerted efforts of the whole family.
“The road to achieving all this was not at all easy and I must admit that it is a continuous journey which I am prepared to continue,” smiled Dinesh.
Being brought up in a family of farmers, Dinesh has never regretted dropping out of school to take up farming.
“I just had to drop out of school because my family was struggling to even make ends meet but I was confident that I could achieve a lot in life through farming,” he said confidently.
There was no turning back for Dinesh as he got down to serious farming at the age of 16.
“My parents were really happy with my achievements as I was running errands for them and doing things on my own,” he smiled.
As the years progressed, Dinesh started his own family and has instilled in them the values of the land.
“The land has so much to offer and yet most people take it for granted and it still baffles me today that there are so many pieces of land that are still vacant and yet a lot of people still drifting to the urban centres to find work,” he said.
“I think of all the different kind of crops, fruit trees and flowers that can be planted in those vacant lands and it is really sad to see that yet it lies barren,” explained Dinesh.
Dinesh and his wife start their day at 5am where they visit their farm and just breathe in the sweet fresh air of life.
“As usual we water the plants, weed the fields if we find them growing among our crops and just visiting them to see how they are growing,” he said.
“We have to play our part as well if we are expecting a good growth from them and that is how I do things around the farm.”
After continuous visits from the agriculture officials in the north, Dinesh was appointed as a demo farmer for 15 other farmers in the Boubale Settlement.
With funding from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and with the assistance and technical advice from the Ministry of Agriculture, the 15 members of the Boubale Farmer Field School will be taught the techniques of growing English Cabbage.
The whole farmer field school initiative came about from the need to help farmers release their potential in producing other viable crops.
“Planting these small commodities is going to be worth it and we are grateful to SPC and the Ministry of Agriculture for taking time out to assist us on this field school and we believe that in time we will surely reap the rewards,” he smiled.
“We will keep trying because we were told from day one that fruits and vegetable farming is quite a tricky business because we have to be mindful of pests and diseases.”
Most of the farmers in the area are keen on planting English Cabbage but outbreaks of pests have been hindering their efforts.
A major pest that often feasts on the cabbage leaves is the Diamond Back moth.
Last year, farmers could not sell their produce due to attacks by this pest and even Dinesh lost about $7,000 on his English Cabbage plot alone.
Agricultural Assistant (Labasa) Premila Singh said that farmers will be taught the basics of land preparation, raising seedlings, planting till harvesting of crops.
“That is why through concerted efforts of SPC and the Ministry, we are hoping to curb this pest problem through teaching the farmers the various workable solutions that can develop their crops further,” she explained.
Farmers will be meeting on Dinesh’s farm once a week and will be collecting pests which they will be able to identify and they will be taught on how to control them.
Premila added that this is an opportunity for farmers to see for themselves the extensive damages that a small pest can create in their crops and it can be minimized.
As for Dinesh, he hopes that farmers around the country will be able to use practical methods in their farms to prevent such outbreaks.
“I have to admit that when the outbreak occurred last year, my wife and I were so angry because after all our hard work, we lost so much on the field,” he said.
“That really taught us a lesson and this time around we are hoping to make things right,” he smiled.
The hardworking farmer is hoping for a good quality harvest this year and hopes that the weather will be favorable.
“It has been raining for several months since the end of last year and I am just keeping my fingers crossed that we will do just fine this time around.