By Kelera Ditaiki
Laisiasa Waqamoce is a farmer at heart. He grew up on a farm in northern Fiji called Vanua Levu, where his parents were Kava and sugarcane farmers.
“Farming is what I became familiar with and what I am passionate about.”
Left: Laisiasa Waqamoce is standing in front of the agriculture headquarters in Naqali, where he sells his harvested crops all year round. Photo courtesy of Laisiasa Waqamoce
Now, he manages a three-acre farm with his wife in Vuniniudrovu, located in central Fiji.
“My brother-in-law leased the land to me so I can cultivate it,” Waqamoce said. “To make sure the money from the crops goes back to the village.”
For seven years, Waqamoce has been planting root crops like cassava and Taro, and vegetables ranging from eggplant to cabbage. His favorite crop is vegetables.
“The main reason is that it brings in fast money,” he said. Vegetables are easy to plant, they mature faster, and are in high demand at the market where Waqamoce goes to sell his crops.
When Category 1 Cyclone Cody recently hit the nation on Jan. 6-14, Waqamoce’s farm was flooded and his vegetables and root crops were washed away. Over the years, he has been experiencing setbacks on his farm because of the change in weather patterns.
“I live near a big river so when it rains, we are usually affected all the time and the crops are washed away,” Waqamoce said.
Cyclone Cody flooded the Waimanu River that lies between Waqamoce’s farm and the village. This happens often during hurricane season which lasts from November until April and in turn, affects the sale of his crops.
“Once we are affected by the sudden change in weather we cannot plant crops since we do not know what to plant,” he said.
Waqamoce and his family’s main source of income is farming. His short-term income source is vegetables, and his long-term income is root crops. He mainly sells his crop by the roadside in Vuniniudrovu. He used to earn $90 a week but now, only earns $10-$15 a day.
Transportation is another major problem.
“Once you harvest your crop, a bamboo raft transports the crop from the village to the other side of the river bank,” Waqamoce said.
This has been the only means of transportation in the village but he hopes in two years a road is built.
“We cannot be transporting crops by raft every time,” he said. “We have to keep in mind that climate change will come and we cannot stop it.”
Despite the challenges, Waqamoce considers them as a part of life. Nevertheless, he is attentive to opportunities and has adapted to plant vegetables and root crops that can survive both wet and dry seasons, such as yam. He has also used his savings to buy himself a tractor to help in cultivating and plowing the land and a twin cab (pick-up truck) to help in the supply and transporting the crops to the market.
“We cannot control the weather as God can,” Waqamoce said. “There is only one thing climate change has taught me – we should not give up, we just have to move forward.”