Saturday, December 28, 2013

rough roads in Vanua Levu

from w
This article in today's Fiji Times over-simplifies the value of the rural settlements in Vanua Levu and the writer certainly said something rather questionable about Labasa as a 'one-horse' town. I don't Mr Jadaram and other hard-working people in Labasa would agree with that.  It's a town on the move. Really it is!

Rough travels in the North

Solomoni Biumaiono
Sunday, December 29, 2013
If your description of a holiday is travelling in posh, air-conditioned vehicles and on tarsealed roads, then traversing some of the roadways and byways of Vanua Levu will not be for you.
The unsealed and the unfinished roads though, gives you a sense of adventure, going at it wild in Fiji's outback and experiencing the real Fijian rural way of life.
Our one-week sojourn on Vanua Levu, courtesy of the Ministry of Information, visiting government led social and economic projects led us through the three provinces of Cakaudrove, Bua and Macuata, off the main highway and into some of the remotest parts of Vanua Levu.
It is not exactly a holiday as earlier suggested but definitely a working trip worth the bumpy ride as it shows you some of the best sights that Vanua Levu has to offer.
Labasa Town may still be a one horse town in many sense of the phrase but that is the very trait that makes this town unique.
The sights of Vanua Levu begin just a stone throw away from the town and in all mountains swathed in clouds and valleys checkered by farms and surrounded by picturesque beaches and islands.
All these sights are underlined by the people we met along the way, from the farmers going about their daily business or the children frolicking in mountain streams, cooling off from the December heat.
An early morning rain has cooled the hilltop on which sits Qawa Primary School overlooking the Vunivau valley below.
The school's manager, Binesh Prasad, is happy that the school has received assistance from a government agency to build a much needed concrete walkway that will ensure students do not slip and soil their uniforms when going to or returning from school.
With a roll of 374 students, this school serves the greater Vunivau area while some students come from as far away as the Cawaira area — 3km away.
The school parents and teachers have pitched in to help in any way they can and a group of men are digging a drain to prevent any flooding during the school holidays.
Closer to Labasa Town at Siberia, stands Abdul Hamid's very promising poultry farming project and the 52-year-old is very excited about his prospects.
Hamid is planning to rear, slaughter and sell packed chickens as Vanua Levu Best Chicken.
A former sugarcane farmer, Hamid decided to turn to poultry as the demand for packed chicken in Vanua Levu is great but supply cannot meet this demand. He is producing 10,000 live birds every month but the demand is 55,000 meat birds per month and in order to meet this demand he has to buy chickens from Ocean Chicks.
"This is a meat bird farm because Vanua Levu has plenty of layer farmers. I went into this one because the problem is this, for Vanua Levu there is no slaughter house and if you want chicken meat, you need to have a slaughter house," Hamid said.
He built this slaughter house with the help of the Commissioner Northern's Office and is awaiting approval from the Ministry of Agriculture for the approval for his packing house.
"All the farmers in Vanua Levu will grow the chicken (and) we will buy but I will ask the other farmers to contribute, they will do the cane farm and also do the farming with chickens at the same time," Hamid said as he explains his grand scheme.
He adds that he can even help these farmers start their chicken farms by supplying the chicks. Hamid is working to manufacture his own chicken feed and has already imported the needed machinery.
Leaving Hamid, we travelled across the Labasa River to follow it up right to its source, the Suweni River which flows beneath the chain of mountains which surround Mount Delaikoro.
These picturesque mountains are not to be mistaken for their beauty because the rivers they feed, Suweni and Labasa, had wreaked havoc at the town and especially at Suweni Village.
A change in the course of the river in 2003 during Cyclone Ami washed away a few houses at Suweni Village and flooded the whole of the Labasa Town. The damage caused by the river is still visible at Suweni Village and the river stands to do more damage if nothing is done about it.
Ten years after that incident, government is finally diverting the Suweni River to its old course again and they hope this will save Suweni Village from any further damage.
After a brief lunch at the satellite town of Seaqaqa, we were on our way to Naividamu Village, which is the end of the road.
Some 23km from the inter-island highway, the road to Naividamu takes you through a valley dotted with rice paddies and sugarcane farms and on top of the hill leading to the village offers a breathtaking vista.
Mountains of Bua and the Cakaudrove provinces are visible from this hill with the valley we had just crossed in the foreground.
Our destination was the end of the road where a newly-built river crossing has finally given some respite to the villagers of Naividamu. Before the concrete crossing was built, the old crossing was just logs and villagers usually had to carry their heavy construction materials cross the stream to the village or carry other heavy loads as vehicle owners did not want to take the risk.
The 50km return journey to Labasa was as welcome as the rest at the end of the trip and the yaqona tasted sweet, especially after a day of touring some of the byways of Vanua Levu.

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