Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Voivoi, mat-making on Koro Island  (I cannot copy article and photo.)
One initiative after the devastation of Cyclone Winston has been taken up by the women of Koro Island with help with coils of voivoi for making pandanus mats to sell.  The hurricane depleted the island of voivoi but now they are able to start this small home industry again.
from Fiji Times

Koro's 'silent' backbones

Shalveen Chand
Monday, September 19, 2016
THE people of Koro Island are living examples of resilience as they continue to build their lives after Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston.
Seven months after the super storm ravaged through the island on February 20, the focus is on getting the small island's economy back to where it was before TC Winston.
And in doing so, a program targeting women is slowly reaping rewards.
Koro is renowned for its mats and the supply of voivoi (Pandanus caricosus) leaves. After TC Winston, the price of 100 voivoi leaves have almost doubled as Koro was the biggest supplier to the markets.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has started a project which looks at raising the Koro women economic activity.
The project is headed by a son of Koro, Alifereti Bulivou, who is the co-ordinator of the project.
While voivoi project looks specifically at allowing women back into the economy, the home garden project targets supplementing food for the islanders.
In this project, UNDP supplied tools, seeds, organic fertiliser and also trained villagers on the proper ways of planting cabbage, pumpkins, watermelons, cucumbers, beans and other vegetables.
Right now each household has an abundant supply of vegetables mainly cabbage and pumpkins. Root crops such as the wild cassava, termed koula by the Koro people, dalo, yams and dalonitana are thriving again.
This was something new for the people of Koro as they had never known to have a garden beside their homes. The usual practice was to reap what nature had given and focus mainly on traditional foods such as root crops.
Mr Bulivou explained that with the voivoi project, the mission was to get voivoi suckers and women to plant them so they could start supplying voivoi again.
He said the women of Koro would sell the voivoi to UNDP who would then give it back to the women to weave mats which would be distributed to the markets again.
"We were able to buy suckers from within Koro and distribute it to the 14 villages, when we finished the first activity we managed to plant more than 6000 suckers and then we also carried out the home gardening activity, we supplied tools, some seeds, some traditional vegetable cuttings," Mr Bulivou said.
"As you can see the watermelon are growing quite well and the villagers have confirmed that they have started harvesting some of the vegetables as well, so it was for them to have daily and if there is something extra, then they can sell that.
"Not only for them to eat on a daily basis, if you look at the ration that was provided, it was mostly tinned food items, rice and flour, so we thought that this would be good for their daily diets and we were hoping as well that since their income generating activity has been affected they could also try and start selling some of these vegetables."
After the assessment, it was realised that the voivoi on the island had survived.
"The voivoi, fortunately enough, not all were affected. Some of them are beginning to harvest and the second part of the activity is to bring in dried voivoi leaves for the women to weave mats and we will look for the markets.
"Since they are beginning to harvest the voivoi, we have come in to check how many can we get locally here so we can buy it from Koro and supplement it from neighbouring Lomaiviti islands," Mr Bulivou said.
"So they earn money from selling the dried voivoi to us and then they can weave the mats which we will take to the market and the money is given back to them. This is for the 14 villages on the island.
"We need to look at what not only men are doing. It was common knowledge that yaqona and dalo were affected and when you look at the women, it is the voivoi. We can now clearly see that when the voivoi in Koro was affected, we could see the immediate increase in prices at the Suva market.
"We are also going to distribute two chainsaws for the villages and we have run chainsaw training as well. There are a few other things that is coming in, in co-operation with ION and Habitat for Humanity. We are assisting in carpentry training as well.
"I think the two organisations are going to help build a house in each village and this is what they are going to teach them the skills."
Looking further, UNDP is looking at bringing trainers who would be able to help the women diversify their voivoi products from just mats to things such as basket, placemats, souvenirs among other things.
Furthermore, the garden project has also helped minimise debris dumping. Corrugated iron which cannot be used for the house again, is used to fence the garden.
After the cyclone, a lot of animals especially pigs have also been out looking for food and unprotected gardens make an easy meal.
The house project by UNDP looks at carpentry. While the material for building homes slowly trickles, the people of Koro would face a problem with getting their carpenters.
Mr Bulivou said their projects were designed to fill the gaps in the areas of work already being done by other organisations and the Government.
Salote Biu, head of the Soqosoqo Vakamarama for Mudu Village said women of Koro have been the silent backbones of the family unit.
"We are always able to fill the shortfalls and ensure that we can support our families. This project is good and I am looking forward to be able to make money for the family."
"Things are hard but we are surviving and I think if we persevere, we would one day get back to where we were one day."
In Nacamaki, the head of Soqosoqo Vakamarama, Aqela Dibuna said through the sale of mats and voivoi, women from her village were able to earn $300 to $400 a month.
Tevita Vunileba from Mudu said home gardens made it possible for people in his village to have meals.
He said the main worry were children and with the home gardens, the children were always fed.
"Right now, for our daily meals we have cabbage and tavioka most times but it is food and we are grateful for this project," he said.

Word pictures about place and food

Here is some nostalgia about place and food, many about Fiji. When you just pick up a golden cowrie shell, place it over an ear, you hear the tropical sea and can visualize memories of different scenes in your life.

Poems about place and food
At Nukutatava beside the shining sea
pearly oysters cling to the legs of mangroves.
We cut them off clean with old knives,
my sister-in-law, Evia and me.
They are moist, succulent for the midday meal
with lemons plucked from a nearby tree.
Near Nubunikavula village, - named moonlight,
Young men slash at the hillsides with cane-knives.
Women prepare black river mussels
with coconut cream, served in curved shells.
An old song-leader sings a hauling chant
with a rude metaphor, the men smile.
Nukualofa, the main town in Tonga
has tabu days when work is banned
but neighbours call with baked yams,
even a whole glazed piglet.
We feast then lie on pandanus mats.
Even the coat of many colours rooster rests.
In Davuilevu compound on a Sunday
the resident nurse invites me to a lunch
of creamy yams with squares of jellied seaweed.
This visitor baulks at the strong taste,
decides never again to eat that green stuff
yet years later I can eat it with delight.
Lautoka, is a city of sugar and spice.
The bride’s hands are decorated with turmeric.
and gold gleams from her throat and nose.
The couple circle the fire, the man leading
as the pandit drones in a monotone from the classics.
We wait, impatient for the spicy meal to follow.
Nukulau the transformed island
has become a prison for coup-makers,
heroes to some, devils to others.
The visiting pastor listens intently
to stories of grief and excuses.
They eat hunks of bread with warm tea
In a Geelong backyard the ground is hollowed,
smoke drifts towards the neighbours
but the Council has given approval
for the hangi, a lovo, a pit of many names.
After grey volcanic stones heat up,
wrapped dalo and pork is steamed
under gum leaves and a mound of earth:
A Fijian feast for a serious ceremony
In the flat Mallee lands of Hopetoun
abstinence was his Methodist rule
from the strict norm of his culture
but his new colleague opens up a wine bottle,
offers a new astringent taste.
Frowning he looks back over his shoulder.
Next to the former Pentridge Prison in Coburg
after worship in the heritage stone building
men cobo clap as they drink the kava
Women unwrap bland cakes and coconut pies
to accompany mugs of sweet milky tea
then lie on cream pandanus mats
like petals of flowers, to gossip.
At Queenscliff we park near old ragged pines,
waves glitter near the Rip,
the ferry a toy on the lip of the sea.
He chooses a fish to fry in the Trident shop,
then we straddle rough-cut table legs,
grateful for sun, salt and seafood.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Padre James Bhagwan at the Micah Conference

'Love your neighbour'

Padre James Bhagwan
Wednesday, November 23, 2016
ON Monday morning, I stood on the lawn of the Federal Parliament of Australia and urged the gathering in front of me to, "Love your neighbour".
It was my last of three days in Canberra and the conclusion of the Voices for Justice national gathering, convened by Micah Australia.
Micah Australia works with churches, Christian aid organisation and individuals to gather, inspire and empower Australian Christians as advocates, sharing God's heart for justice and raising a powerful voice with and for people in poor communities around the world.
Voices for Justice is Micah Australia's annual three-day gathering in Canberra, where Christians from across Australia are inspired and equipped to be agents of change in their communities and their world.
I was invited by Micah Australia, through a member of their coalition and our church partner, Uniting World, to be the keynote speaker.
Focusing on climate change, sustainable development and Pacific partnerships, I shared my first of three messages for the weekend reflecting on the gathering's theme "How Can Australia Be A Better Neighbour," asking the message "Who is our neighbour?"
Let's start with the much broader question of neighbour. The indigenous language of Fiji, neighbour is translated as kai noqu — "Kai noqu" may be used when one Fijian is generally addressing another Fijian that they share the same blood somewhere in their lineage.
In many ways, we are as clan-oriented as those in Jesus' original audience.
Most often, we look out first for our immediate and then extended family, and then close friends, and then those who are most like us or share our values or associations.
Like the priest and Levite, we tend to overlook and avoid those who are different from us.
But Jesus calls us to love those who are different from us as if they were our own kin … our own blood.
Jesus' answer, which is also based in the Torah:
Leviticus 19:18, 33-34 "… you shall love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord… When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God."
The reason we should love our neighbour, the alien, and the stranger is always the same: "I am the Lord your God."
Love others because God. Not "because God said so," but because God loves them.
So how do we expand our concept of neighbour to include others into our household?
I know that to speak of refugees in Australia was to touch a raw nerve. But in the face of climate change, as we already witnessing the first climate refugees — where will our neighbours go when the land has disappeared?
Where do our neighbours go when extractive industries reduce the places we envision as paradise into wastelands?
Our neighbours in Kiribati, Tuvalu are on the verge of become climate refugees.
Our neighbours in West Papua are suffering human rights abuses and loss of their way of life as their natural environment is being exploited. People who seek refuge are being turned away.
From a point of justice — be it climate justice or development justice — let us ask the question to ourselves, if we are the good Samaritan how long are we willing to care for those we find stripped of dignity, robbed of everything they have, lying bleeding and dying?
What is the good Samaritan found another man along that road the next day? And the next?
Would he begin to look at why that area was beset with violence?
Would he try to stir the powers that be to do something about the crime and poverty in the area?
Or would he just keep fixing the wounds, keep giving money to the inn keepers and allowing the thieves to prosper?
"While the parable of the good Samaritan provides a wonderful lesson in response to a specific question ("Who is my neighbour?"), we are left wondering how to advance life-giving communities alongside our neighbours.
Often as people of faith, we are often spectacular at following the Good Samaritan model of providing relief in times of crisis.
Yet we too often fail at the long-term work that is necessary for lasting social justice.
On Monday, 180 Christian advocates from Australia and the Pacific gathered at Federal Parliament to call on our leaders to make stronger commitments to ending global poverty and take greater action on climate change.
Micah Australia has negotiated more than 105 meetings with Members of Parliament throughout the day, where they heard from a diverse group of advocates including students, professionals, families, faith leaders; and Pacific ambassadors from Fiji, Kiribati and Tonga.
Before heading inside, advocates gathered on the front lawn to hear from Pacific leaders and pray for the day's meetings.
It has been an honour to join with fellow like-hearted, like-spirited and like-minded human beings for prayer, reflection, envisioning, speaking and acting for the compassion-filled humble justice that is loving your neighbour in the context of sustainable development and climate change... thanks Micah Australia, Uniting World and our gathering host, Hughes Baptist Church, for letting me share my Voice for Justice.
Our small nation, Fiji, was the first to ratify the Paris Agreement and almost immediately, as if to underline the importance of the convention on climate change, we were faced with Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston — a symbol of the earth's groaning and crying to the rising temperatures and sea-levels.
Battered and bruised, our leaders went to sign the Paris Treaty which is now enforced — but already in peril as those who have ears but cannot hear the groaning of creation either refuse to sign or plot to withdraw from the agreement.
Now, we prepare to lead discussions in 2017 at COP23.
At the same time how the Paris Agreement translates to our communities, how the mechanisms such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals translate into our responses to the continuous exploitation of our common home is still to be discovered.
"Simplicity, Serenity, Spontaneity"
* Reverend James Bhagwan is an ordained Methodist minister and a citizen journalist. The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Methodist Church in Fiji or this newspaper.

The Micah Conference participants together with Australian MPs on the front lawn of Parliament House. Congratulations to Pip Bergland and the Micah staff for such an outstanding event! Congratulations too to Vasiti Tebamare and Tinaai Teaua the star visitors from Kiribati who put their stories so courageously to the Australian parliamentarians! Maria Tiimon Chi-fang Namakaina and Vincent Sicari from Pacific Calling Partnership and the Edmund Rice Centre were thrilled to be involved!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Class Six results in Fiji not so good

The Fiji Times told it simply, other media reckons it's just not good enough, but results to me show that something is wrong in the teaching and management of preparing for Class Six exams.  At that level surely you would expect 90% pass rate in most subjects.  Some schools however do extra-curricula activities and give the children great opportunities to learn about Fiji and the environment etc. such as on the Coral Coast where this picture was taken.  Perhaps there needs to be a breakdown - school by school - of results.

Year 6 results out

Aqela Susu
Wednesday, November 23, 2016
PARENTS and guardians can collect their children's Year 6 results from their various schools and district education offices today.
The results were released by the Ministry of Education yesterday.
A total of 17,024 students sat for the exams with the ministry revealing a drop in the pass rate in mathematics and Na Vosa Vakaviti. This year's Year 6 students did better in English, general subjects, hindi, Urdu and Rotuman compared with last year's students.
About 71 per cent of students failed mathematics this year and about 44 per cent failed Na Vosa Vakaviti. The pass rate for the other subjects were 54 per cent for English, 47 per cent for general subjects, 46 per cent for Hindi, 38 per cent for Urdu and 65 per cent for Rotuman.
Education Minister Dr Mahendra Reddy said the results would give all students an opportunity to know where they stood.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Tui Labasa passes away

Marama na Tui Labasa passes away

Sunday, November 20, 2016
Update: 4:53PM THE late Tui Labasa, Adi Salanieta Tuilomaloma Qomate Ritova, will be laid to rest at the chiefly burial ground in Nasekula Village on Friday next week.
She had been bed ridden for a few months and later  passed away in her home last Tuesday.
Adi Salanieta is survived by one son, three grandchildren and  eight great grandchildren.
The preparations for the funeral will begin on Wednesday in Nasekula village - the home of the late Tui Labasa.
She was 86-years-old at the time of her passing.

Monday, November 07, 2016

Have a heart and don't be so mean

from Fiji Village:NFP wants ban to be lifted on Professor Brij Lal and Dr Padma Lal
By Dhanjay Deo
Tuesday 08/11/2016

Professor Biman Prasad
The National Federation Party is calling on government to use the 100th anniversary to commemorate the arrival of the last ship carrying indentured labourers to lift the indefinite ban on former Fiji citizens Professor Brij Lal and Dr Padma Lal from entering Fiji.
Party’s leader Professor Biman Prasad says it will be a symbolic gesture on the part of Government if the Head of State President Jioji Konrote, while launching commemorative events in Suva tomorrow makes an announcement to this effect.
He says after repeated attempts to seek the truth from government, the former Immigration Minister Timoci Natuva admitted last July that the decision to put Professor Brij and Dr Padma Lal’s names on the list of people prohibited from entering Fiji came from the Prime Minister’s Office.
Prasad says this ban is an insult not only to Professor Lal and his wife, but also to all right‑thinking and law‑abiding citizens and to the Indo‑Fijian community whose historical background right from the days of indenture has been well researched and documented by Professor Lal.
When contacted this afternoon, Director of Immigration Nemani Vuniwaqa said that government’s stand on Brij Lal and Padma Lal has not changed.
He adds they have not received any new requests from these two individuals.
Meanwhile, Biman Prasad says this is nonsense talk as both individuals had made their applications last year.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Reformation Day and All Saints Day

A poem I wrote this week picks up on the themes of the coincidence of halloween, All Saints Day and Reformation Day.
The Protesters

October 31 2016  Geelong

After the wind and rain, I sit in the gazebo
as Cohen’s Alleluia (KD  Lang) plays on my phone,
then the heartbreak of Tears in Heaven.
Where have all the dead gone, I ponder,
and finger the purple pelagoniums for remembrance.
They call this day All Hallows or even All Saints Day,
 but I am confused. The cool air wavers between winter and spring,
 but where is the line between earth and heaven,
between a broken world and godliness?
I pick up my golden cowrie shell, search for visions.
The Progressives don’t even ask about heaven
in the thin space between New Age and belief,
 just protest like reformers have done so in the past.
I touch my lucky charm, a golden butterfly necklace
bought at an Op-shop in Maldon for nostalgia.
 I lack confidence that all will be well;
Julian of Norwich said so but I have doubts.
I peer at my scattered notes, found through Google,
about Reformation Day, of Halloween, of probable fictions.

October 31 1517 at Wittenberg

She sweeps the large stone steps of Castle Church,
and touches the stolen black bread from the kitchen
pocketed in her apron.  She is the unloved servant.
Uncle Martin in his priestly robe approaches, says
‘Hilda, you can help me. Find a hammer and nails.’
 She obliges and watches his urgent movements,
nailing a thick parchment to the church door.
Marks dance but she is unlearned. Uncle Martin reads
‘Disputio pro declaration.’ Another nail is hammered.
‘Vituitis undulgentiarum. ‘Another hard hammering.
Her uncle switches to the colloquial,
‘Hilda, this is for you. No more paying for indulgences,
They do not buy a key to open the door to Eternity,
Your father, my brother, is not in peril of hell.
The Pope intends to build a basilica in Rome
with the collections from people like you.
I do protest. Works and money is not how it’s done.
Our Heavenly God is about faith and grace.’
‘Ninety five thesis,’ he declares,
his accent is now educated not local.
She continues sweeping the dried oak leaves
and pine cones to make each stone clean and shining,
proud of her task at the Castle church in Wittenberg.
Then Uncle Martin brushes her forehead with a gentle kiss
and ambles downhill in the shadow of the church.

October 31 1277, the Crags, Ireland

The Travellers have arrived with coloured caravans
for the Samhain festival. They light clay lamps
they call dya and chatter of a Festival of Lights
but for Drusilla it is a festival of Darkness.
Costumes are meant to frighten the ghoulies,
even though the Priest tells her ‘Don’t be afraid ,
hold a pebble in your hand, an apple pip,
a grain of wheat. Tighten your cape around you.
Feel the earth with your bare feet.
Tie a rosemary wreath over the  kitchen heath.’
But will all of this protect her from wandering ghosts?
She stands beside her black horse above the castle,
the McDonnells, her kin, her dyed blue cape flying
as she looks down on the smoky bonfire,
both pagan and priestly. Confused she turns away
to leap on her horse, ride in the wind,
protesting the priest’s superstitions,
as the moon leers at her fears.

Ten miles from Tara undated, around 205 AD

They named her Tlachtga, born on the New Year
of the Great Fire Festival where children run about
holding firesticks now the bone-fire is raging,
burning up the bones of the animal sacrifice.
They bow to the Sun God  with the cycle of heat and cold.
The altar is made of rough-cut wood and fine stones,
 and driftwood gathered from the shore.
This festival is of the wilting Sun, the harvest over.
Now they want plenty with the next harvest
not paucity of bare earth and eating grass.
Her tangled red hair looks afire as sparks spray out. 
She picks up a smoking branch from the Great Fire
to take back to the kitchen hearth, for safety. 
Her namesake Tlachtaga was a goddess of death and rebirth,
of sun and lightning, but also a real woman
daughter of a powerful Druid Mug Ruoth.
and she had died birthing three after a rape.
The new Tlachtga will do better than that.

October 31 2016 Geelong

Now the wind and rain start up again
so I leap from the back garden gazebo,
drop my golden cowrie shell and its visions,
no longer dreaming of Halloween and All Saints Day,
or Luther hammering his thesis to the Castle Church door.
I will be a Protester, not of theology and God
 but of the darkness that has emerged in these times,
mud and slush so evident, yet hope
for the emergence of the brilliant waterlilies

catching light and opening out goodness.


A bit of help from someone who knows has enabled me to post again on babasiga, so I'll send something soon.