From streets to farm

Ba tobacco farmer, Naqelesi Tikolevu. Picture: REPEKA NASIKO

After spending most of his life on the streets, Naqelesi Tikolevu decided to call it quits. He realised he needed to change a few things in life if he was ever going to be successful.

With a change of heart, he turned his life around. Today, more than anything else, the 62-year-old does not want his children to experience what he went through as a young man. The market vendor and tobacco farmer says he now works on his two acre farm in Nailaga, Ba, to make an honest living.

“I used to sell anything I could get my hands on when I was a young man just trying to look after my children,” he said.

“That included things like dried leaves and mostly things I was not supposed to be selling. Due to his struggles and choices, he often got into trouble with the law and the police.

“I remember one day a very senior officer visited my home to find out why I kept doing what I was doing.

“When he came home, he saw that I had four young children.

“He was so moved that he wanted to raise one my children. That show of concern changed Naqelesi and made him desire to strive for better things, for the sake of his family.

“I knew that if I kept getting into trouble I would be taken away from my family.

“I did not want that. His biggest realisation was that he had to first pull himself together before he could take care of his wife and kids. As his first step on the road to change, he started a small stall in Nausori, then in Ba, a few years later.

“Even though I was a market vendor the money I earned was not enough.

“I had children who were growing up and I wanted them to get a good education. Naqelesi’s youngest is still in high school while one is pursuing tertiary education. Considering the hike in the cost of living and education expenses, he decided to venture into tobacco farming.

“I had heard from a relative how easy it was to grow.

“I had a plot of land near my village so I decided to start growing tobacco.”

He said after two and half years of toiling the land, he has been able to effectively look after his family.

“The great thing about tobacco faming is it is very easy to maintain, especially when you are employed by the right company.

“We supply tobacco leaves to British American Tobacco, which looks after us really well. In a single harvest, Naqelesi can make between $2000 to $2500. With the money he makes, he pays for his bills, family’s daily needs and his children’s education. Naqelesi has hopes of expanding his farm and increasing his productivity level with his family’s help.

“I want my children to help me while they are studying and working. At the end of the day I want them to see what hard work will get them.”

“Despite my struggles in the past, I am very grateful and blessed that I am able to still look after my family and children.”

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