Ramataka’s yaqona experience – A lucrative business in the highlands

Serupepeli Ramataka at his yaqona farm in Waisere. Picture: VILIAME RAVAI

Serupepeli Ramataka is a yaqona farmer from Waisere in the Naitasiri province.

The 46-year-old father of two has been a farmer since the early ’90s.

In Naitasiri, villagers know that those from the highlands of Wainimala are well-known for planting yaqona.

Ramataka said he attended Kasavu Primary School student and after completing Class 8 in the early ’90s he decided to rejoin the village life and dedicate himself to farming.

He said his family had access to more than a thousand acres of land.

“I learnt everything from my village elders and my father. When I was old enough my father decided to find a wife for me and travelled to Navutu Village – a village of his maternal link,” he said.

“He approached a woman to be my wife and life continued from there. Up here in the highlands we respect our parent’s decision, so I agreed with it.

“We had two daughters and a son. One of my daughters just completed Year 13 at Lomaivuna High School and another is in Year 8 at Navuakece Primary School.

“In 2017 a cousin of mine from Korovou, in Wainimala invited me to go to his village to get the yaqona stem. He told me that if I want to be a rich man like some other yaqona farmer. I needed to plant yaqona.”

Ramataka said he talked with his wife and she agreed to go up to Korovou.

I spent one month up in the Wainimala to cut yaqona stems so that I can take back home.

I had to cross the Wainimala River 28 times to reach the place where we have to cut the stems.

“On our return we crossed the river 28 more times to reach Sawanikula where I caught a transport back to Waisere.

“First I planted 150 stems, and then went back to Lutu in Wainimala again to get another sack. After I planted that sack of stems, I travelled to the highlands of Tailevu province and spent a week there to collect another sack of yaqona stem from an old companion.”

Ramataka said he travelled to many other villages as well in search of yaqona stems.

“Now it’s been three years and he has started to reap the fruits of his labour harvesting yaqona, dalo and ginger from his farm. I always tell this story to the people when they want the yaqona stem from my farm, how I faced challenges looking for yaqona stem before.”

Ramataka said he had more than a thousand yaqona plants and he continues to plant more yaqona.

“Some challenges about being a farmer include the fact that we always pray for the perfect weather. Sometimes it rains continuously and animals are another threat especially when they cross through my dalo farm.

“I’ve built myself a two-bedroom house at the farm after my first harvest. Now I’m looking forward to harvesting again to purchase a vehicle but I have to wait when the price of the yaqona goes up.

“My advice to those that want to be a successful farmer in life is to stay focused and never look back.”

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