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Shahana Keeps Fiji’s Sandalwood Fragrance Alive

Sporting a big smile and her zeal to achieve is an aura hard to miss.

Shahana Shain a 28-year-old young entrepreneur who is the owner of Shahana’s Nature Paradise aspires to be one of the leading Sandalwood nurseries in the country.

Her story is worth your salt as it teaches us that we should actively pursue our dreams and sometimes, those dreams aren't at the end of a linear achievement track that culminates in a college degree.

Shahana, like any other child growing up wanted to pursue her education and have a white-collar job but as fate would have it, her mother fell ill and being the eldest in the family, she took on the responsibility to herself by making that ultimate sacrifice and life-changing decision twelve years ago to drop out of the formal education system at form four level (Year 14) to look after her.

Upon the full recovery of her mother’s health and watching her parents hard work to be rewarded  after they both attained awards for the Best Beef Farmer for her father and Best Sugar Cane Farmer for her mother, Shahana too also decided to actively follow her dream to redefine and work on her success story.

With the same ideology and following her parents exemplary  footsteps - to toil the land and be a farmer, she decided to added a little twist to it by exploring the road less travelled especially for women and that is to venture into Sandalwood farming .

“I didn’t want to be cattle farmer or a sugarcane farmer like my parents. I wanted to venture into something different. I wanted to establish my own nursery, a sandalwood nursery,” Shahana said.

“My parents did not take me seriously at first but I told them I would leave home and find a job elsewhere if they did not support me in my new venture.”

Not wanting their eldest daughter to leave the nest, Shahana’s parents gave in to her demands and decided to invest in her new venture.

“My parents supported me financially by buying all the nursery materials from the saloon shade, polythene bags and other materials.”

“I was also fortunate to have been advised by officials from the Ministry of Forestry who were frequent visitors to our farm when I started establishing my nursery last year.”

Shahana said without their support and advice, her thriving 24,000 sandalwood seedlings would have all withered and died.

Exactly one year after establishing her nursery, Shahana’s sandalwood seedlings which are more than 30 centimeters in height are being sold to the Ministry of Forestry at $5 a seedling.

When purchasing seedlings a major requirement by the Ministry of Forestry is that seedlings need to have grown 30 centimeters from the topsoil as it ensures a good survival rate when planted.

The Minister of Forestry Honourable Osea Naiqamu who was on tour in the Western Division, paid the young lass a surprise visit in her nursery on Friday.

Minister Naiqamu visited Shahana with his ministry staff who planted 500 sandalwood seedlings on 5 acres of land on their farm. The Ministry of Forestry purchased the 500 seedlings for $2500 which is the first time Shahana has earned an income.

“Shahana is paving the way for Fijians and this is exactly what Government through my ministry is promoting through the 30MillionTreesIn15Years initiative,” Minister Naiqamu said.

“She is sowing seedlings in her nursery and we are economically empowering her by buying those seedlings and planting it on their land.”

Minister Naiqamu said after 20 years Shahana will reap the benefits and probably will become a millionaire in years to come.

The Ministry of Forestry has purchased another 800 sandalwood seedlings from Shahana which will be distributed and planted in eight villages in the district of Malomalo this week as Minister Naiqamu continues with his 30MillionTreesIn15Years consultation tour in the Nadroga Province.

Feeling emotional after seeing her first income, Shahana is grateful to her parents for their support and also for her perseverance and determination to become someone in life.

“Today (Friday) I showed my younger sister studying law at the University of the South Pacific (USP) and my younger brother in high school that despite dropping out of school I am able to earn an income and become someone in life with the support of your loved ones and determination to succeed.”

Shahana hopes to supply more sandalwood seedlings to the Ministry of Forestry as they continue to meet the 30MillionTreesIn15Years initiative and also play a part in mitigating climate change.

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