Whether he receives Government assistance or not, nothing has dampened Watisoni Kunauwa’s passion for planting as many trees as he possibly can.
The avid gardener has been planting all sorts of tree species in Nabulini Village in the Province of Tailevu ever since he left work in the hotel industry. “After 35 years of working at Navuso and also in the hotel industry, I decided to return to the village and toil the land,” Watisoni said.
The father of four has been very supportive of various tree planting programs in the previous years, namely the Asia-Pacific Tree Planting Program in 2017 and also the 1Million Trees in 1Year that first took place in Fiji a few years ago. Apart from planting indigenous trees and fruit trees in his village farm, the 73-year-old also plants vanilla and cocoa beans which are two rare plant commodities found in Fiji today.
“Vanilla pods are very difficult to grow here in Fiji but amazingly they are flourishing here in my nursery,” Watisoni said.
Last week on his way to the village to attend the 4Million Trees in 4Years Initiative consultation, Watisoni received a phone call telling him that the cocoa beans he plants on his farm is considered one of the best in France after being tested.
“The cocoa beans that you see here in my nursery was taken all the way to France in order to find out its quality or grade and I was surprised with the phone call I received on my way to the consultation today. I also plant other fruit species like avocado pear, various citrus plants, breadfruit, and coconuts to name a few,” he said. Everyday Watisoni begins his program at 5am with a prayer followed by breakfast and three hours on his farm.
“I believe in putting God first in everything that I do because without his guidance and protection over me and my family, I would not be where I am today.” Watisoni’s wife then travels to Korovou Market to sell root crops and whatever edible crops that grows on his farm.
“Whatever little income she earns supplements what I get from selling my vanilla pods which today sells for almost $400 a kilogram. Many people are not aware about the high demand in vanilla but if I can cultivate it then anyone can. I believe that one has to have a passion in doing anything because if they do not love or enjoy what they do, they will achieve nothing,” the Tailevu farmer said.
Watisoni has an outdoor nursery where he grows root crops like dalo ni tana, dalo, vudi and kumala and also an indoor nursery where he grows cocoa beans, avocado pear and citrus plants.
“I support this planting program 4Million Trees in 4Years Initiative brought right to our doorstep by the Ministry of Forestry officials,” Watisoni said.
“For me I have been planting all these crops and various plants with the best way I know how and I am grateful that the Ministry of Forestry will further enhance my knowledge and farming skills. I want to support this initiative and not only plant things in small scale, I want to plant things in a big scale and I believe I have the space and with a little bit of help with my nursery I can play my part in helping the Government of the day achieve its goals in planting 4Million Trees in 4Years.”