When Anjna Deb retired from the Fiji Development Bank in early 2010, she thought about what she would do to fill the days now void of the routine and structure brought on by the hectic work day in an office.
As the former manager research and business development with FDB, her wide experience in research and the agricultural sector gathered over her 30 plus years of service with the bank, soon bore fruit when she and her husband, Yogendra, a retired accountant settled into a whole new routine in no time at all.
These days, Anjna is a “pot plant enthusiast”. But potted decorative plants are not the only things she grows from her Namadi Heights home. The Debs’ veranda is fittingly bedecked with an array of potted plants as well as plant and vegetable seedlings in trays and PVC bags, neatly arranged along nearly 50 feet of shelving that extends on an arm outward from the railings that wrap the sweeping veranda which opens onto her back yard. Her back yard is also an oasis of fruit trees and vegetable patches – Batiri oranges, guavas, choraiya bhaji and bhaigan amongst others.
“My time with FDB taught me a lot of things and it came in handy when Deb and I decided that we would raise fruit and vegetable seedlings alongside the pot plants that were a hobby, and supply these for backyards gardens,” Anjna said.
“Food security is very important and what we can provide seedlings for people with a bit of yard, to start planting their own food.
“Over the last three years I have learnt so much doing this – the right time for planting, fertilisers to use, pests and diseases that affect different plants and I share this information with the people that buy these seedlings from me.”
Anjna credits the Ministry of Primary Industry’sCrop Farmer’s Guide or her “bible” as she refers to it; in helping her understand a lot about what she was doing. The colourful guidebook of all local fruits and vegetables, contains information on seed rate, spacing. Fertiliser/manure, weed control/management, disease control/management, harvest/yield and the food value of the crop.
“There is a huge potential and demand for fruit and vegetable seedlings. Once I got a call all the way from Nadi from a potential buyer for an order for 5,000 bhaigan seedlings I was shocked at the quantity sought,” she said.
“A lot of what I do is influenced by my experience at FDB working in the area of research and the exposure that it gave me about having a vision, planting for sustainability and creating surplus for agro processors.
“No one person can do business alone. A market is what brings all buyers and sellers together – there has to be a connectivity where you have the right mix of producers and processors this is why the inaugural FDB Market is such an exciting prospect for small seed growers like me.
“I have previously advertised my seedlings in the paper and received calls for them – that’s a cost. I tried providing these through agriculture extension officers but that didn’t work out. I see the FDB market as providing the perfect vehicle for what I want to achieve with my passion and I am hopeful that people see the value of having home gardens and buy these seedlings to plant at home.”
Anjna will be at the FDB Market on Saturday (15 March) to be held at the FDB car park in Suva starting at 6am to 1pm. She will have for sale, three varieties of bhaigan at $1 each, passion fruit for $2 and potted caladium plants for between $5 and $15 each.
Anjna’s story is an inspiration for all retirees looking for something to do once they leave the workforce. For her, gardening is a positive occupational therapy and a great way to earn an additional income.