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From Fiji Times Online (28 September 2004, posted 4 October)

Jacob Pa'u returns home to farm the land

Being a tour guide was something that Jacob Pa'u dreamed. The thought of taking the tourists around and mingling with them was just too good to be true.

His dream came true in 1991 and he settled in the jetset town of Nadi and worked for a small tour company.

But his dream was short-lived when he found it difficult to cope with the work pressure.

"It somehow felt wrong and all of a sudden I just knew that life in town was just not for me," he said.

"I missed my family and my friends and slow pace of life on the island of Rotuma that I have always been used to."

After three years of work as a tour guide, now the 29-year-old has returned to his island home to farm.

"At the moment, my parents are in Suva and I have been given the task of looking after three siblings and I am thankful that my brother is also doing a bit of farming," he smiled.

Jacob is now the proud owner of a five-acre farm on which he plants dalo, yaqona and yam farm.

He also has a small vegetable plot in his backyard.

"I plant a few vegetables at the back of my house like eggplant, tomatoes, cabbages and chilies and it helps in the family meal," he said.

"I have never looked back from that day and I believe that island life was meant for me and I am just loving every minute of it," he laughed.

Jacob, like all other youth farmers on the island, has been involved in village youth groups and the skills displayed on their farms clearly depicts the seriousness of their farming activities.

"Most of the time, we practice the traditional methods of farming passed on by our forefathers but now we have been getting advice from Agriculture officials and it has boosted production," said Jacob.

Agriculture official Fak'manoa Tigarea said there had been an increase in dalo production for all the villages in Rotuma.

This, he said, was because of the advice on dalo production methods and varieties given by the agriculture office.

"It has been encouraging to see the hard work pitched in by these young men and they really have a point to prove to their families and friends — that is sacrifice and determination," said Tigarea.

Jacob walks for half an hour from the village to reach his farm.

In the evenings he walks back to the village after a hard day's work is over.

"There is so much to do on my farm and time is always an important factor because if we use our time wisely, a lot can be achieved," he said.

"At times I often forget about time because I am so concerned about my dalo plantation plus I do not have to worry about food because there are a lot of fruits to eat and wild chicken as well," laughed Jacob.

Jacob's younger brother, Mika Pa'u, also thinks along the same lines and for him, farming is also an important factor, which contributes a lot to the family.

"I am not a large-scale farmer like Jacob but I really try my best to plant," Mika said.

"I am a member of the local village youth group and I help in any way I can like planting dalo and yaqona."

Mika is more of a fisherman than a farmer but he loves to juggle the work in any way he can.

"I mostly help in planting for the youth group but other than that, I am a dedicated fisherman," he smiled.

As for Jacob, plans are in the pipeline to sell his dalo to friends and family in Suva.

"During Christmas last year I was given an order by the Rotuma Island Council for four tonnes of dalo which they sent to Suva and this year I am hoping to send ten tonnes of dalo."

"Here in Rotuma, we mostly plant dalo varieties such as tausala, vavai and uro ni vonu and I know that we plant the best dalo in the Pacific," he said.

So Jacob is hopeful that all will be well in the near future when he will be able to sell a lot of dalo and secure his family's future through dalo farming.

"I don't think that any of the youths in the village will want to go and work elsewhere because life is here in the island," he said.

"I am thankful that those of us here on the island at least have food security with which we can survive," smiled the proud farmer.

So after a hard days work on the farm, Jacob joins his other friends in the village hall for a few bowls of yaqona and a sing along session to the lively beat of the drum and guitars.

"This is the life that we prefer and I would like to urge youths everywhere that farming is the best profession because you are your own master but you need to work hard."


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