A 14-member youth group in the Northern Division concerned with the drastic impact climate change has had on their crops and livestock have come out in full support of the 4Million Trees in 4 Years Initiative undertaken by the Ministry of Forestry.
Valawavere Youth Club consists of both men and women who are farmers carrying out integrated farming approach that includes livestock and crops.
Most of the members reside at Droca Settlement in Nasaroroqawa in Bua and they mainly grow watermelon at a large scale.
Registered with the Ministry of Youth & Sports, the group requested the Ministry of Youth & Sports Manager North Mr Walter Matalau to try and link them up with the Ministry of Forestry as they intend to support the 4Million Trees in 4Years Initiative.
Upon their request, Mr Matalau was able to secure two hours of the Minister of Forestry Honourable Osea Naiqamu’s time on Thursday May 30 while he was on tour in the Northern Division. Mr Matalau said the group consisted of Hindu, Muslim and iTaukei youths residing in Droca Settlement.
“The Valawavere Youth Club is a very active group and since its inception in 2016 they have grown from strength to strength and they have set a pace for other youth groups not only in the Northern Division but in Fiji as a whole,” Mr Matalau said. Valawavere youth member Amzad Ali, 29, said he was happy Mr Naiqamu took the time to visit the youth members.
“Most of us are cash crop farmers growing watermelon and long beans in large-scale and we supply to Savusavu and also to Suva,” Mr Ali said.
“Watermelon takes 3 months to harvest and in one harvest I used to earn about $8000 but today we are facing a lot of challenges especially the changing weather patterns.” Mr Ali said what used to be fertile soil is now replaced with dry and hard soil not good enough to plant crops or even graze the livestock.
“After awareness training and workshops conducted by the Ministry of Youth & Sports we as a group realized that our soil need to have water and one way we can do that is to plant more trees,” Mr Ali said.
Another group member Mohammed Mustatim, 19, who has been a group member since it was established in 2016, said they have always looked out for each other and helped each other out.
“I left school at a young age and I am a full-time cash crop farmer growing watermelons and long beans,” Mr Mustatim said.
“I am so lucky to be part of this youth group because we are registered with the Ministry of Youth & Sports and we get a lot of assistance from them. But today, with the Minister of Forestry Honourable Osea Naiqamu visiting us right here at our doorstep, I know we will get more help from the Government.”
“I used to earn $1300 after every 3 months from my watermelon and from my long beans I used to earn $1500 every 6 months.”
Mr Mustatim lives with his parents and fully supports them from cash crops that he plants in his farm at Droca Settlement.
Taj Mohammed a parent of one of the youth members who could not be present during the Minister of Forestry’s visit said the group has come a long way.
“I thank Minister Naiqamu for taking the time to visit the youth members and I for one can say that these youth members have a lot of land still vacant,” Mr Mohammed said.
“It is no use having land and paying lease if it is left vacant and idle. I am happy that these youths are using their own initiatives to venture out and make use of the land.”
Minister Naiqamu was impressed with the group effort and how they were earning a decent living through cash crop and livestock farming.
“My Ministry will certainly help you by supplying tree seedlings for you to plant around your farms and I am impressed that you already are helping yourselves better your lives,” Minister Naiqamu said.