Kava farming, a promising career path
While kava farming is not a typical career choice for youth in Fiji, its high profitability is garnering interest among young people, particularly in rural areas, to establish careers as small-scale commercial farmers.
In Kadavu, one of Fiji’s major kava growing areas, Usaia Sausauwainivalu, the farm manager at Vunisea Secondary School, is encouraging school leavers to consider kava farming as a potential career pathway.
Mr Sausauwainivalu oversees the operations of the school farm, utilised by over 300 agriculture students.
Last year, he initiated a practical field project which taught students about kava cultivation and now the school has over 700 kava plants on its farm, among other crops and vegetables.
He said the idea to create a kava plot was birthed after attending a kava value chain analysis workshop in Suva, organised by Fiji’s Ministry of Agriculture and the Australia and New Zealand supported Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access (PHAMA) Program, now known as PHAMA Plus.
“After I attended the training, I presented the learnings to the principal. It inspired the principal and he asked me to conduct kava farming awareness to students as an alternative career path,” he said.
“Many have shown interest in taking kava farming as a career path after high school, as they know the financial benefits of kava. Most of the students on the island are not new to it as most come from kava farming families in Kadavu. Some even own kava farms.”
A kava farmer himself, Mr Sausauwainivalu was among stakeholders who received the Fiji Kava Quality Manual distributed during the workshop. The manual was developed to better equip farmers with the relevant information to advance at domestic, regional and international levels.
“The Kava Quality Manual is very informative in that it has helped us identify the different kava varieties, particularly the characteristics and the different names unique to a particular growing area,” Mr Sausauwainivalu said.
He also took the opportunity to tell students about the importance of maintaining quality, discipline, commitment and proper planning in their farms to in order to remain sustainable in the long run.
“Wake up in the morning, tend to your farm, set goals and work towards it. If you are farming without goals, it will be a waste of time.”
He hopes that the practical field project will lay the foundations for students to consider kava farming as a career after secondary school.