Sunday, February 28, 2010

Fiji Barefoot Law

by Serafina Silaitoga

Fiji Times - Monday, March 01, 2010

NEW village laws introduced by a group of village heads in the Northern Division restrict people from wearing shoes, women growing long hair and wearing shorts and limit freedom of clothing and leisure activities.

The 200 villagers of Nukubalavu in Savusavu have to take off their shoes when entering the village boundary and walk barefoot to their homes. This rule also applies to visitors.

Health authorities, however, have expressed concern, saying walking barefoot could expose villagers to diseases such as leptospirosis. The Cakaudrove divisional health office in Savusavu said it would act to protect villagers from exposure to health risks.

Ministry of Health permanent secretary Dr Salanieta Saketa said the ministry would investigate before making a statement on the issue.

Roko Tui Cakaudrove Ro Aca Mataitini was away in Taveuni but the provincial office said that laws decided by the villagers and their chiefs were entirely up to them and applicable only in the village boundary. On hairstyles and banishment of villagers for marijuana and homebrew breach, the office referred all queries to Ro Aca.

All women and children with long hair have cut and keep their hair short.

The decision of the village elders follows last year's Cakaudrove provincial council meeting where they were asked to protect the Fijian culture from modernisation.

Village headman Maciu Baleidaku confirmed that new rules have been put in place restricting villagers from certain freedoms of clothing and leisure activities.

Anyone caught with marijuana or drinking homebrew in the village boundary would be banished, he said.

He said Savusavu chief Tui Nasavusavu Ratu Suliano Naulu and tribal heads of the village have been engaged in meetings on the new law the past two weeks. Mr Baleidaku said the chiefs agreed to introduce the laws after the two-week meeting.

He said concerns were raised about how villagers and visitors continued to show a lack of respect for Fijian culture and traditions through disrespectful dressing and unnecessary loud noise in the villages.

Men who spend long hours drinking yaqona have been told cut down and spend time with their families.

The new laws, Mr Baleidaku said, would be put submitted to the police and the Cakaudrove provincial office in Savusavu.

Mr Baleidaku said village police officers had been chosen to make sure rules were followed. He said villagers had been informed and accepted the decision.

Discuss protocols, linguist urges

by Elenoa Baselala

Fiji Times - Monday, March 01, 2010

THE enforcing of traditional protocol or rules in rural villages should be discussed amicably, Fijian culture expert and linguist Doctor Paul Geraghty said.

He said most if not all villages had protocols which must be followed.

However, he agreed that using corporal punishment was not a good enforcement method.

"People must follow these protocols," he added.

"When I take visitors to rural villages, I explain the rules and protocols and they respect and follow them," Dr Geraghty said.

Meanwhile, Dr Geraghty has urged Fijians to take up the Fijian course at the University of the South Pacific to improve their command of the Bauan dialect, widely accepted as the "Fijian" language.

While the number of those taking this course has increased in recent years, Dr Geraghty has urged those in the media practising in the Fijian language to take up the course.

No shoe law ‘is new'

Monday, March 01, 2010

LINGUIST and Fijian expert Doctor Paul Geraghty says the "barefoot rule" being enforced in rural villages is new.

Dr Geraghty said Fijians in the pre-colonial era normally did not wear shoes.

However, the word "vava" or shoes does exist in the Fijian vocabulary. He said Fijians, or probably their children, wore shoes made of halved coconut shells, which he believes was probably for a particular game.

A man who walks barefoot himself, Dr Geraghty said it was nothing to do with wanting to be "Fijian".

"If I wanted to be a Fijian, I will wear shoes because all Fijians wear shoes," he said.

"I walk barefoot because I don't think shoes are of any use. It is only useful in cold countries. I don't wear shoes and I am a very healthy person, I hardly get sick," Dr Geraghty added.

Monday, February 22, 2010

No more cash payments for Fijian landowners

Fiji Broadcasting Corporation, February 22, 2010

Lease payments to Fijian landowners will no longer be paid out in cash by the Native Lands Trust Board from the 1st of April.

General Manager, Alipate Qetaki, says the decision was put in place as a security measure to safeguard the money, NLTB staff and the landowners.

Speaking to FBC News Qetaki said the movement of large amounts of cash during lease money payouts in May and November every year has always been a concern for the Board.

The NLTB Board had shelved the decision for some time but decided to implement the policy at it’s last board meeting last year. Landowners are currently being paid in cash twice a year, in May and November, and Qetaki said it is becoming very dangerous to move the large amounts of cash, some of which amount to $20m at a time.

This he said, was the main reason the Board had decided to stop cash payments of lease money. Instead all landowners have been asked to open bank accounts where money can be deposited each time payments are made by the Board.

Qetaki said there is another advantage of paying money to Bank accounts and that is the Banks will have the history of each land owner’s credit standing which will assist them when they wish to borrow to start up a business or a development project.

Meanwhile Qetaki said landowners are starting to heed the Board’s encouragement to lease their own mataqali land to increase their income. A mataqali member has leased 22 acres of their land overlooking Suva Harbour to do a residential subdivision.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Village acts on dress

Theresa Ralogaivau

Fiji Times - Monday, February 22, 2010

A BUA village plans to formulate strict dress rules, behaviour and hairstyles for the villagers as they prepare for their biggest development so far.

Aurum Exploration (Fiji) Limited is expected to commence mining hills near the village this year.

Nawailevu villagers won't be allowed to wear their hair in garish, radical or ultra-modern styles.

A meeting of the chiefs and development committee agreed bauxite mining, which is expected to get underway near the village this year, mustn't erode traditions and customs.

Committee member Josefa Rokoduna said they would learn from the lessons of other villagers where developments took place.

"We know that a price of development is the loss of tradition and customs and we are working hard so that doesn't happen to us," Mr Rokoduna said. "The chiefs have decided bauxite mining will take as little from our lives as possible.

"We will come up with a set of rules that villagers have to abide by including our visitors."

The rules to be formulated at a meeting next month will be sent to the provincial council and the police.

"Women must wear skirts and dresses and sulu-i-ra for traditional functions while the men must dress decently," Mr Rokoduna said.

Visitors won't be allowed to move around the village without the permission of the headman.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Keeping tradition alive


Fiji Times - Thursday, February 18, 2010

Inoke Galu, 39, has sent a message to his elders back home in Kabara that their traditional knowledge about craftsmanship are being successfully passed on to the younger generation.

To prove this, he has completed building a three-foot drua (double hulled canoe) which he started after his father's death.

It was two years back when Mr Galu and his father Jone Lupe had built their first three-foot drua which was exhibited during the Melanesian Art Festival in 2006.

"It took us three weeks to complete the drua. Then within the next three months after completing the first drua, we built three more each measuring 10 metres in length," Mr Galu said.

"I was inspired by my old man's craftsmanship and I challenged myself to build a canoe by myself to prove to my elders and my village that their knowledge was still being successfully passed on to the younger generation."

He started working on the drua six months ago.

"It is taking me long but my father's works inspire me to complete it. I am doing all the work by myself and I appreciate the help I receive from my uncle Taniela Gu."

Mr Galu said the survival of such skills was important to his Lemeki Clan in the village of Naikeleyaga in Kabara.

He used materials including mahogany from the land of some landowners in Valelevu, and coconut husk (magimagi) as the binding.

"I have not used any modern materials in the art because I wanted to use the traditional methods. I have also placed the traditional Fijian designs to decorate the canoe."

"I believe building such art helps retain the cultural backgrounds. These canoes will also suit many resorts which want to add an ancient traditional flavour or as souvenir to their assets," Mr Galu said.

He was also interested in selling his art and receiving contracts for traditional art.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Ra Villagers Await Ice Plant

Fiji Times - Tuesday, February 16, 2010

STORING their catch from the sea will no longer be a problem for the people from the costal villages of Nakorotubu in Ra.

This was after they were promised an ice plant and a fisheries officer in their district last week.

The coastal villages, which included Verevere and Namarai, expressed their concerns that they did not have any place to store their catch.

Ministry of Fisheries officials who were at Namarai last week as part of the government officials' tour said the ice plant was supposed to be built in 2007 but it was put on hold.

Since they rely mainly on the sea for their livelihood, the villagers requested for an ice plant that will ease their storage problem.

The ice plant will be similar to that in Wainikoro in Macuata and Malaka in Vanuabalavu.

Tikina (district) Nakorotubu representative Mosese Dranibaka said that an ice plant was supposed to be built there years ago but that changed.

Mr Dranibaka said if constructed, the ice plant would ease the burden of having to pay for transportation costs to deliver their fish to their markets.

With that in place, the fishermen would be able to concentrate more on fishing, rather than worrying about the storage, he said.

Mr Dranibaka said that was one district in the Ra Province that relied heavily on the sea so they needed something in place that could help them maintain their livelihood.

$3.9m for Rural Electrification in Ra Province

Fiji Times - Tuesday, February 16, 2010

THE Department of Energy is spending about $3.9million for the electrification of 604 families in the Ra Province.

Department supervisor Frank Rokowaqa said projects were in progress.

Mr Rokowaqa, who was part of the government tour of the province last week, said they had projects from Vunikavikaloa to Waimicia, Tokaimalo district and Rokoroko Village and settlement. Mr Rokowaqa said the communities also contributed partly to the project.

In this case, they had to pay 5 per cent of the total cost of the project.

Four districts in Ra, they had to pay $231, 184 for their projects. Mr Rokowaqa said those from Vunikavikaloa would pay $9,530.80, the Tokaimalo district pay $204,538.50 and those from Rokoroko Village would pay $17,114.75.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sea wardens have power to arrest

Fiji Times - Friday, February 12, 2010

WARDENS of traditional fishing grounds are empowered to arrest people found to be illegally fishing in the area.

Director of Public Prosecutions Ratu Aca Rayawa said the wardens did not have to wait for police or the courts, and could also confiscate fishing implements.

Ratu Aca said his office would then make a civil forfeiture application in the court for the items that were confiscated - apart from the criminal proceedings that would take place for illegal fishing.

He made the comments while accompanying Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, who was on a three-day tour of the Ra province.

Addressing villagers from the district of Nakorotubu in Namarai, Ra, Ratu Aca said the villagers would have to hand over the confiscated items to police.

He said the laws were put in place because a lot of people were getting away with illegal fishing.

He told the villagers of a recent case where a foreign vessel master, Lee I. Lang, was convicted by the High Court in Suva about three weeks ago after it found him guilty of illegal fishing.

Ratu Aca said in that case, the State had also filed for the forfeiture of the vessel and the proceedings from the catch ran into thousands of dollars.

His explanation came after villagers asked about the powers of the qoliqoli wardens.

Tikina (district) Nakorotubu spokesman Mosese Dranibaka said that a lot of people were coming from outside their qoliqoli to fish in their qoliqoli.

He said they had found people from as far as Suva and other parts of the country fishing in their Marine Protected Area.

Mr Dranibaka said that most of those people were using prohibited fishing equipment such as compressors and scuba.

He said they had also found a lot of people diving at night, which he believed was a threat to their qoliqoli.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Vanua Way Gets Chop - NLTB GM

Fiji Sun - 10 February 2010

The Native Land Trust Board wants landowners to take full part in commercial activities, including land development.

General manager Alipate Qetaki said this would be a priority following the liquidation of Vanua Development Corporation Limited.

Vanua Development Corporation Limited was the controversial commercial and investment arm of the board.

It was established to provide maximum rewards for indigenous land owners on the use of their land.

Vanua Development Corporation Limited is winding up voluntarily and is seeking a liquidator.

Mr Qetaki said there were other options for Native Land Trust Board to follow in order to fulfill the objectives of Vanua Development Corporation.

“Incorporating a company like Vanua Development Corporation Limited to carry out commercial activities for the Native Land Trust Board is only one option,” he said.

“There are other options which can be followed to address the same objectives and produce the desired outcomes.

“Empowering the landowners to fully participate in commercial activities including land developments is a priority option.

“This links with government’s roadmap for implementing of measures for reform and change in the financial and commercial sectors for the landowners.”

Mr Qetaki said the Native Land Trust Board was working with the Ministry of Indigenous Affairs on the implementation of policies to help landowners.

“The Native Land Trust Board is working closely with the Indigenous Affairs on the implementation strategies of measures to mainstream landowner’s issues in all aspects of Fiji’s economic life and development so that they benefit greatly through the economic growth that are expected to follow,” he said.

Liquidation will be completed by June

Fiji Sun - 10 February 2010

‘Follow the right channel'

Fiji Times - Wednesday, February 10, 2010

LAND ownership grievances had increased recently to become a widespread problem, according to Army Commander Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama.

He made the comment while addressing a group of Yalobi villagers on the island of Waya in the Yasawa Group.

The villagers were concerned that a neighbouring beachfront property had been sold without their consent. Commodore Bainimarama advised the villagers to approach the proper authorities.

He said there had been numerous requests for government intervention in land disputes during his visits around the country.

Prior to the Yalobi Village visit, villagers of Namara in neighbouring Wayasewa had also sought help in resolving the Vomo Island ownership dispute.

"People need to follow the right channels; there are no short-cuts," he said.

Commodore Bainimarama said a lot of the bureaucracy had been smoothed out, making it easier for every individual or community to air grievances.

The villagers had told Commodore Bainimarama that a search of records revealed the land had been sold by individuals who were not members of their landowning unit. They claimed that one of the signatories to sales and purchase papers was a man who was from Nadi. They said traditional requests for return of the parcel of land had been turned down.

Old age art still alive

Fiji Sun - 9 February 2010

Viniana Yauva is among Macuata women who are keeping the age-old art of weaving mats and salusalu (garlands) from kuta alive.

Sitting in front of a shop at Dreketi, in Macuata, Ms Yauva makes use of her free time weaving kuta leaves into garlands.

She does this daily as she waits for customers who come to buy mangoes and bananas from her.

The woman from Raviravi lives with her family in Nadoiviri Settlement, close to the school her children attend.

Helping her husband fend for the family is an additional role Ms Yauva has to carry out to ease the financial burden.

Besides selling crops from their farm, she sometimes prepares food to sell to daily commuters on the Labasa-Dreketi-Nabouwalu highway.

Passengers on buses, trucks and vehicles travelling from Suva to Labasa and vice-versa usually stop over at Dreketi.

She is able to display her art work to interested individuals at the shop.

“I do not sit idle at the shop waiting for customers so I use my time in plaiting salusalu,” she said.

“I learnt the art from a retired civil servant who attended a workshop on kuta weaving last year.”

Her garlands are sold for $40 but times can be hard because there is no market in the area.

The money earned from her daily sales is used for her children’s education.

“Educating my children is important because I want them to have a good future,” the 40-year-old woman said.

Like many rural woman, they seize every opportunity to earn money for help their husbands.

From a farming background, Ms Yauva said hard work was important as the fruits of labour put food on the table.

Gold Find in Wainibuka

by Ifereimi Nadore

Fiji Times - February 09, 2010

HIGH grade minerals, including gold, have been found in thick forest near Nabulini Village in the upper reaches of Wainibuka, Tailevu.

Preliminary tests on stones extracted from the site confirmed that they bore components of precious metals.

The results of the tests conducted in Australia were relayed to villagers of Nabulini and Manu by the Department of Mineral Resources' senior scientific officer, Sireli Nagata.

The stones were collected from Naviga and Dreketi creeks by a team from MRD led by Mr Nagata late last year.

Mr Nagata said given the magnitude of the project, it was highly likely that exploration would cover the whole of Nailega district. The land is held by five villages.

It is anticipated that work will begin as soon as all the necessary paperwork is finalised.

Mr Nagata has been conducting meetings in Nabulini and Manu over the past few weeks to help landowners understand the pros and cons of the project.

He has also reminded them that under the Public Emergency Decree, anyone found disrupting any development work carried out by the Government could be liable for prosecution.

The PED came up after a dispute between mataqali over who owned what piece of land.

The boundary dispute forced Mr Nagata and military personnel Major Laifone and Donu Manasava to travel to Nabulini on Friday to settle the matter.

Mr Nagata told the villagers that more exploratory work would be done on other sites, and this would cover the hilly terrain of neighbouring villages Manu and Naibita.

Last week, State officials were at the site to clarify ownership of land where exploratory work will be undertaken.

Major Laifone urged the villagers to put their differences aside and support the development to improve their lives.

Nailega district representative to the Tailevu Provincial Council, Waisake Kaloulia, said the landowners hoped to make full use of the opportunity and to ensure that it progressed without any further problems.

He said the vanua of Nailega would meet on February 17 to elect a committee to represent all the landowning units.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Second meet discusses resort' beachfront works

Fiji Times - Tuesday, February 09, 2010

A SECOND environmental impact assessment meeting was held last week to discuss further development plans by the Outrigger on the Lagoon Fiji.

The meeting was called by Environment Consultants Fiji Ltd who were hired by the resort to conduct the assessment based on the proposed development.

The development involves reclamation and foreshore works in front of the Outrigger beach which is expected to deepen the swimming area and improve water quality at the beachfront.

About 15 people, including the Coral Coast Chapter Committee chairman Bob Kennedy attended the meeting to raise their concerns.

"When we talk about the reef, we talk about somebody's qoliqoli. The meeting was not conclusive and we have to wait and see what happens because of the qoliqoli issues. The community is very concerned and some feel it might not be a very good idea but we have to wait and see what the EIA says," said Mr Kennedy.

Those at the meeting were told that additional works for the proposal would involve defining a river channel to allow for floods and flow from the Tubakula Creek to be directed offshore, beach enhancement, construction of a groyne or a barrier to control erosion and possibly, the construction of a small island connected to the Outrigger resort by a bridge.

Another matter raised at the meeting was if the new development would create jobs for school leavers in the area.

Participants were encouraged to make their submissions on the proposal to the environmental consultants.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Call of the Wise

by Kuini Waqasavou

Fiji Times - Monday, February 08, 2010

THROUGH the most trying times in his life, 49-year-old Elia Tinaviti of Navunisole Village in Tailevu, never gave up hope in farming.

Navunisole is about five minutes from Korovou Town in Tailevu and is part of the Tikina of Namalata.

The village has about 50 houses. The children either attend school in Korovou or the district school at Namalata.

Since his young days, Mr Tinaviti has been a passionate believer in achievements. Never did he give up on his studies, even though he admitted he was an average student.

"I was never top of my class but that did not stop me from shining in my woodwork lessons," he smiled.

After leaving school, Mr Tinaviti joined older youths who were into carpentry and building houses for new families moving in.

"I decided to put my skills to use and at the same time I learnt more about carpentry," he said.

After a few years, Mr Tinaviti started a family.

"I was farming as well but always on a subsistence level. I knew that the time had come for me to move a step up and enter the world of farming as a business," said Mr Tinaviti said.

"I walk to my farm at about 5am when the sun is still trying to peep over the clouds and this usually takes an hour."

Mr Tinaviti started planting yaqona commercially as he saw other farmers in the village doing the same.

"Yaqona farming is quite a task and then I thought to myself that since it takes two to three years to mature, I should move into other crops for short term returns," he said.

Mr Tinaviti decided to expand his dalo farm from subsistence to semi-commercial level.

"I began selling at the roadside in Korovou Town. It went well which is why I started expanding my dalo farm one day at a time."

Mr Tinaviti realised that not only was dalo farming raking in cash, but it only took nine months for the crop to mature. At the same time, the thought of commercial farming kept crossing his mind.

He grew from strength to strength in the first few years operating semi-commercially. With his earnings, he put his five children through school.

Mr Tinaviti never regretted his decision to enter the dalo business. He knew it was time he shared his good fortune with his fellow villagers.

"All that was left for me was to try farming dalo commercially - I knew I had to step up my production level.

"I was determined - the more I thought about it, the more appealing the idea became."

That was when Elia gathered a group of farmers to start a farming group.

"It was formed with the aim of exporting our dalo. In order to do this, there would have to be a concerted effort from all involved.

The group was formed in 2009 with the Agriculture Department providing advice and technical components of farming for business.

Senior Agriculture Assistant Nimilote Waqabaca said they gave their support to the group.

Now operating as the Navunisole Dalo Co-operative, 32 members, whose ages range from 20-60 years, have been planting in a bid to increase production for export.

The group still practices the traditional way of planting - the 'solesolevaki' method - in which the farmers all help out on a person's farm and keep rotating till every farm in the group or community is on par with the rest.

"We were reminded in our meetings we must not wait for help to come, but we should help ourselves first," Mr Tinaviti said.

The group worked tirelessly and breathed a sigh of relief when word came that their project proposal had been approved by the Government.

The group was fortunate to be recipients of government assistance through its Rural and Outer Island Program.

"I guess after working hard, our prayers were answered and help came in the form of dalo suckers, chemicals, knapsack sprayers and fertiliser all worth $38,000," Mr Tinaviti said.

Dalo suckers were transported and distributed by November last year and the group wasted no time in planting.

Mr Tinaviti says enthusiasm has grown stronger since the group secured the Agricultural Marketing Authority (AMA) of Fiji as its main market.

"AMA officials will come to our farms to buy our dalo and the current prices are satisfactory," he said.

AMA is buying their Maleka Dina variety at 90 cents a kilogram and Tausala variety at $1.60/kg.

The proud farmer says he has even sent two of his children abroad to visit relatives through the money he earned from the farm.

"If we put our hearts and minds into whatever we do, the results will surprise us and my farm has brought so many miracles to my family," Mr Tinaviti said.

He said the group has been doing well and were anticipating a good harvest as well come their next harvesting period.

"What makes it easier is that we've been planting our dalo in phases. This ensures continuity of supply," Mr Tinaviti said.

"Farming has boosted our efforts and we are determined to continue farming and developing our village."

The Navunisole Dalo Co-operative is setting sights on exporting in the next three years.

For Mr Tinaviti, it is a dream come true - for someone who did not top his class.

Elia is certainly feeling on top of the world with his achievements.

For this they have received expert advice by agriculture officials in Tailevu.

The long term objective of ROI is to enhance the livelihoods of rural people and islanders.

Its immediate purpose is to increase market access opportunities and services.

Mr Waqabaca said: " It is an experience for me as they have been planting for years now and it is what they are gifted with, so to be working alongside them is an honour."

"It is indeed wealth from the land and I hope the younger generation will see for themselves the benefits of using the land wisely as a source of income."

The members are still doing what they love best and that is farming to help them break out of the grips of poverty and create better lives for their loved ones.