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.

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