Tobacco farming better than minimum wage

By Vatapuia Maiava and Ilia L Likou ,

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THIS PLANTATION PUTS MY CHILDREN THROUGH SCHOOL: Joe Isaako, 29, from the village of Malie-Uta at his tobacco plantation.

THIS PLANTATION PUTS MY CHILDREN THROUGH SCHOOL: Joe Isaako, 29, from the village of Malie-Uta at his tobacco plantation. (Photo: Misiona Simo)

Having a formal job is important.

But without one, Joe Isaako, from the village of Malie-Uta, is not too fussed.

Aged 29, Joe tends his tobacco plantation to put his children through school.

WE SURVIVIE ON OUR TOBACCO PLANTATION: Joe’s house at Malie-Uta

WE SURVIVIE ON OUR TOBACCO PLANTATION: Joe’s house at Malie-Uta

Although Joe’s wife is employed, he says her pay is nowhere near enough so they rely heavily on his plantation plot near his house.

But even that tobacco plantation runs into a few issues.

“This is the second tobacco plantation that my family has tried to develop,” Joe told the Village Voice.

“Our first one was closer to the hill but we had problems with water coming down the hill when it rains and flooding the plants.

“So we have moved it closer to the house and cleared our old plantation.”

According to Joe, Tobacco farming is good money but it’s not easy.

“Growing tobacco isn’t easy,” he said.

WE SURVIVIE ON OUR TOBACCO PLANTATION: Joe’s house at Malie-Uta
WE SURVIVIE ON OUR TOBACCO PLANTATION: Joe’s house at Malie-Uta

“You have to first germinate until it’s as big as your finger before you plant it. Once it’s ready then I plant it using my hands; I just use my finger to make a small hole in the ground before planting it.

“Selling tobacco is pretty decent money. When tobacco is out of stock then the price goes up to about $7 for a handful and in normal times  goes down to $5.

“When I deliver about 200 small bunches from Aleisa to Aleipata  I would get about $800 on that day. It’s good profit but it’s not easy to grow it and prepare it for sales.

“You have to wait till it’s properly matured which takes two months considering the soil is at a good quality. After that I can put it in the sun before shredding it and filling my bucket.

“I have made only three deliveries this year because it’s not easy.”

But even though it’s not easy, Joe still pushes to make it work because it’s their best form of earnings. “The money I make from tobacco sales really helps the family a lot,” he said.

“We have two people in our family who are currently employed; my wife and my sister’s husband. The thing is; my wife’s pay is nowhere close to being enough for the family.

“I am lucky I have this tobacco plantation to put my children through school because our small plantation generates just enough for transport costs and school fees.

“I have been doing this for two years now; so I stay at home, take care of the children after school and work on the plantation.

“My wife works at Big Bear but the pay employed people get now is not enough for everything the family needs.”

Even when faced with many problems, Joe says life is still ok for him and his family.

“Other than that, everything is alright,” he said.

“Our only problem is not having enough money to cover everything we need per day. This plantation does its part in the family well and I am happy that at least we have this to put my children through school.”

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