Wednesday, June 28, 2017

I remember Rakiraki

The Methodist Church in Fiji posted pictures about Rakiraki Indian Circuit Outreach at Rakiraki Town in facebook today

and the photos and story took me way back two generations to the wonderful years Peceli, me, George and Robin had living there. Peceli was the padre to the Indian community and manager of the school where we taught Religious Education on Fridays, visited cane farms, Peceli's church was a classroom in a school near the sugar mill Our good friends were the Ari Siri family and their teenage daughter was Meraia Siri who later became a highly educated Methodist minister.. Fiji became independent about that time and my Class 8 students sang a version of 'This Land is your land' at the celebration. We had three years there, many people staying with us including Loloma Tukei a deaconess, and blind Pastor Timothy, Peceli's mother and many others. I taught mainly English at Penang Sangam Secondary School. We enjoyed visiting the families on the cane-farms, yarning and drinking very sweet spiced tea. They were not rich people, their houses sometimes plastered with cow dung and the baby sleeping in a kind of swing made from a sugar bag. Our house was cement block, multi-coloured and we had two pet pigs, Kanakana and Lesu Mai. Peceli climbed the Kauvadra mountain with the local English doctor one time and brought back a vadra plant and we buried Georgie's umbilitical cord under that plant. We had a puppy called Biscuit - named after my problem with nausea one month and having to eat cracker biscuits with lemonade! This was a very long time ago.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A babasiga woman weaving mats

from the Fiji Times

Weaver's new ideas

Matilda Simmons
Wednesday, June 21, 2017
IT takes great skill to weave intricate basket or fine mats. Fijiians, like the people of other Pacific Island countries, are blessed to have many talented craftspeople in their midst. From wood carvers to weavers, the skills continue to amaze many today.
So when more than 400 women artisans converged at the Vodafone Arena, at Laucala Bay in Suva last week to showcase their many products, it was a feast of beauty and craft. Women from as far as the Lau Group, Rotuma and islands in the North attended the 2017 National Women's Expo.
Among those talented women was Adi Arieta Kabu of Nakawaga, Mali Island, an island off the coast of Vanua Levu.
The mother of four caught our attention with her eye-catching products which were a bit different from that of the the other women. Hers was a dinner set made entirely of pandanus leaves or voivoi in the iTaukei language. She also had picture frames made from the leaves. Shells collected from the seashore were used as decoration on her frame boards.
"I've been doing this work for more than nine years but for weaving of mats and other traditional handicraft items, I've been doing it since I was in primary school," she said.
With four children still in high school and primary school, she said it helped supplement their family income.
"My eldest son is in Form Seven (Year 13) at Niusawa High School on Taveuni, my second son in Form Five (Year 11) in Labasa while my two youngest are in primary school," she said.
"Coming to the national expo has been an eye-opener. I've been attending since 2014 and each time I leave with new ideas.
"I'm amazed at the different talents on show. The other women have such an array of crafts and it's astounding to see the various products on display."
Adi Arieta added she hoped to incorporate new ideas to her many products and return to the expo next year with a variety of handicraft products.
"The only challenge with working with pandanus leaves is the weather.
"The leaves cannot be dried well. It sets my work back by more than a week. It's terrible especially when you trying to meet orders from clients," she said with a smile.
"I hope after this expo, an overseas market is secured for us. This would open a lot of doors for most local women artisans.

Monday, June 19, 2017

A babasiga woman cane-farmer

from the Fiji Sun

Akisi's passion for cane farming

Serafina Silaitoga
Monday, June 19, 2017
AKISI Vinaka is a popular name in the cane belt areas of Wainikoro and Lagalaga in Macuata.
She is 59 years of age but is swift and frisky when it comes to harvesting cane. This certainly speaks of her determination to make a difference in the iTaukei farming community.
Mrs Vinaka has been a canefarmer for the past 17 years and is a sardar (administrator) for seven cane farming gangs in the area, a Justice of the Peace official and is the head of yavusa Kedekede in her village of Wainidrua.
She certainly had a lot to share when we met at her cane field and her name "Vinaka" meaning "good" or "all is well" was reflected in her demeanor.
Our search for her was not a difficult one because every farmer, who we enquired to regarding her whereabouts, told us of her exact location, which was in her cane farm.
"I love farming. It's my hobby and I have six children who are all in Viti Levu and they have told me to leave farming and join them, but this is where my heart is," Mrs Vinaka said.
"I have a lease of about 13 acres, I pay lease of $970 and I am leasing this land from my own yavusa. It's the best way to do it because cane farming is a business and we should treat it professionally."
During the interview, she kept dabbing her T-shirt and laughed as she noticed our silent observation.
"My T-shirt is damp because I swam across the river to come to my farm and cut cane," Mrs Vinaka explained.
"It was wet early this morning when I arrived but thank God for the sun as it is drying my T-shirt."
Swimming across the river has become part of her sardar duty even at night when farmers need to clarify the tickets or quotas with FSC officials.
"I swim at night because it is the shortest and fastest way to get to my gang members who need my help. That's actually my job, you know, to serve my members," Mrs Vinaka said.
"Then I have my traditional role so it's not easy, but I guess I manage well because I live alone and it's easier to work alone."
Like other farmers concerned about the high cost of cane farming, Mrs Vinaka feels costs on some products should be dropped.
"The lease cost should decrease because farmers are trying to make ends meet in this industry and it's not easy," she said.
"Our transport cost is high like $25 per tonne if we have to hire a lorry to take our cane to the mill.
"If we load the cane on a tractor from our farms to the main line, it will cost us $5 to $9 per tonne so it's not easy. (The main line is a spot where farmers need to off load their cane loaded on rails which will get picked up by FSC locomotive operators)."
Compared with 15 years ago, cane farming operations, she said was affordable.
"We could hire labourers and pay them about $4 to $5 a tonne and that was cheap because other costs were affordable," Mrs Vinaka said.
"Today, the cost of living has increased and we the canefarmers can feel a big difference.
"When we get our cane payment, very little or nothing is left after all our deductions are made so reducing the costs of transport, lease and fertiliser will help us very much."

Friday, June 16, 2017

Youth with a Mission in Labasa

I like the YWAM movement with young people encouraged to explore their faith and the world. We've met them in Melbourne at their headquarters in Surrey Hills, and also one time a group came to Geelong and led a wonderful youth program down at Eastern Beach.  A group have been in Labasa last week.

Youths spread gospel of Christ

Luke Rawalai
Saturday, June 17, 2017
IN an effort to spread the gospel of Christ, the Youth With A Mission (YWAM) has deployed 13 of its members from the Solomon Islands, Tonga and Samoa to carry out evangelistic work in Fiji.
This newspaper caught up with the young spirited youths in Labasa yesterday as they prepared their journey to Savusavu after spending a week in Labasa.
The group's spokesperson, Kovati Asotau, described his Fiji experience as amazing and an enjoyable one.
The 23-year-old Samoan YWAM representative said he just loved the weather in Vanua Levu.
"I loved meeting the people because they are some of the friendliest people I have ever seen," he said.
"The laid back Labasa Town reminds me so much of Apia compared with Suva which is busier and bigger.
"We have with us 13 youth missionaries who are part of this trip and we will be spending some time on Vanua Levu before moving to Viti Levu."
Mr Asotau said the youths paid for their trip through fundraising and money collected from donors.
"Most of us fasted and prayed for this trip and we felt the power of God provide for each one of us," he said.
Solomon Islanders Lydia Ialife and Robinson Kale considered it a blessing to be part of the trip.
Mr Kale said he was looking forward to the second and final leg of their trip, adding that he was trying to spread the Word of God and also soak in the Fijian experience which was a "one of a kind".

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Fiji Women's Expo

from Fiji Sun

Women’s Expo Commemorative Stamp Launched

Women’s Expo Commemorative Stamp Launched
June 14
The Fiji National Women’s Expo 2017 commemorative stamp was launched at the Vodafone Arena this morning.
The postal stamps are designed to promote the authentic Fijian culture.
The pictures on the stamps are from the past Women’s Expo.
A total of  479 women will be showcasing their Fijian Art, Crafts and Culture at the expo from today till Friday.
These women are from Lau, Kadavu, Lomaiviti and Rotuma.
Here are a few clicks from the Expo which starts from today at the Vodafone Arena:

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Andrew's birthday

It's Andrew Snr's birthday today. My youngest son. No party and he's helping me a lot as I have to fast today for a medical procedure tomorrow. He's a great son. Here are some photos of the three boys. George, Robin, Andrew. Andrew was born at Labasa hospital in Fiji and he was nine pounds six ounces, the biggest baby in the hospital. I was in a ward with young women - Indian, Fijian, Chinese and me. Home in two days and it cost 20 cents a day. We were living at Vatuadova cane farm at the time and Peceli had taken leave from the church to help the family tribe and their land issues. He started several development projects - trochus fishing, timber logging, a shop in Mali Island, building a church at Wailevu, small tourist bures, etc but mostly the family didn't really care much about development at the time and after three years we came over to Australia.

Friday, June 09, 2017

About Village By-laws

The Rewa chiefly lady certainly has some good points in her discussion of the proposed Village By-laws. Ro Teimumu wants changes to draft village by-laws
By Vijay Narayan and Iva Danford
Friday 09/06/2017
The head of the Burebasaga confederacy Ro Teimumu Kepa
The head of the Burebasaga confederacy Ro Teimumu Kepa has recommended changes to the proposed village by-laws.She made this submission during a Catholic Church of Fiji organized seminar on Reading The Sign Of The Times in Fiji - Catholic Social Teaching And Socio-Political Issues.

Ro Teimumu said that her presentation is based on the submissions heard from the nine tikina in Rewa who agreed, in principle, that the draft village by-laws, with a few proposed amendments, would be better in creating a more conducive environment for the people it is designed for.
She says what was stressed is that the laws to be enacted are to be for the good of the people as a whole rather than for any individual person.

Ro Teimumu says although people may be created in God’s own image and likeness, they, through democracy were given too much freedom.
She spoke about people participating in village commitments.

Ro Teimumu says presently there is no enforcement and an amendment was proposed by several tikina that a penalty fee of $200 to be included. She says some people’s religious beliefs prevented them from undertaking cultural activities, yet when it concerned them, they were beneficiaries of people’s kindness and generosity.

Speaking on the section concerning stray animals destroying crops in the village, Ro Teimumu said that conflicts should be resolved by peaceful means as the draft village by-law proposes that the crop owner after killing the animal is to inform the owner of the slain animal to remove it and if after 6 hours the animal has not been removed, the crop owner may utilize the animal meat. Ro Teimumu says submissions on this section from several tikina were that the animal owner apologize to the farmer and replace or replant the destroyed crops, or the village organizes an impounded area for stray animals.

She says most of the villages disagreed with the section of the draft village by-law that states that people intending to marry should be a home owner. Ro Teimumu says the villages felt this would be a hindrance to young people wishing to marry which will impact on the village population, although they agreed young men should have a plantation for food security.

She also spoke about rights and responsibilities. Ro Teimumu says the social teaching is that rights correspond to the duties and responsibilities to one another, to our families and to the larger society. She says one the concerns expressed in the presentation is the motion that individual human rights overrides group or communal rights especially when they hear people from Suva expressing forcefully through the media the power and authority of human rights.

Ro Teimumu says often quoted is that Fiji is a democracy and everyone has their rights meaning no one can tell a person how to dress or act in a village setting. She also said that Turaga Ni Koros should be well paid as they would be given added responsibilities and also raised the question whether they will be contracted like civil servants.

Ro Teimumu says the Rewans also suggest that the religious committee in the village monitor the activities of all church denominations in the village and for them to actively participate in vanua activities. She says it was also suggested that villagers should cooperate and collaborate in addressing issues of truancy, absenteeism and being used in child labour economic activities.
Ro Teimumu says villagers should also look after the environment. She says she is embarrassed to say that probably 90 percent of the household refuse is discarded through plastic bags into the Rewa River, travels down river, through the qoliqoli areas and ends up on the reef.

Other people present in the Catholic seminar included Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu, Niko Nawaikula, Pio Tikoduadua, Fred Caine, some SODELPA and NFP youth, Peter Waqavonovono and Fiji Council of Churches.
We are currently trying to speak to Archbishop Peter Loy Chong. Stay with us for that.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

The low wages in Fiji are shocking

How on earth can a family be fed if workers in Fiji get little more than $2F an hour. Read this from today's Fiji Times.

Fijians need a 'living wage'

Avinesh Gopal
Thursday, June 08, 2017
National Federation Party leader Professor Biman Prasad and Fiji Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry believe Fijians need a "living wage".
Prof Prasad raised the issue at the party's meeting in Lautoka at the weekend.
Mr Chaudhry says it is widely accepted that low wages is the root cause of poverty in the country among working class families.
"It is estimated that some 60 per cent of those in full-time employment are earning wages below the basic needs poverty line (BNPL) currently set at $203 a week. These employees are all in the private sector," he said.
"Government's own survey shows that those in the lower wage group are spending less than $40 a week on food for their families.
"This is absolutely shocking. What can a family of five buy for $40 a week except for the base essentials?
"A living wage pegged to the cost of living and one that meets the basic needs of our workers must be a priority for any caring government."
Mr Chaudhry said it was not correct to suggest that the Government has brought down working poverty from 35 per cent to 11 per cent as Employment Minister Jone Usamate stated in this newspaper a week ago.
"The bottom line is that 60 per cent of our low income earners are receiving wages below the poverty line and that most of them have difficulty spending $40 a week on food for their families."
He said the National Minimum Wage (NMW) of $2.68 an hour was not the answer to the country's problem of tackling poverty.
"We need to raise the national minimum wage rate above starvation wages to a level where a worker is able to meet the basic needs of his family and still be able to save a little.
"What then is a living wage for our workers? This is the crux of the matter."
Mr Chaudhry said the NMW should not become a subject of political propaganda in the lead up to the 2018 election, saying a negotiated NMW should have a bearing on the basic poverty line.
He said an interim solution to the impasse may be to raise NMW to $3.50 per hour to give immediate relief to workers in this category.
The NFP maintains Fiji needs a "living wage".
"Our 'living wage' suite of measures is for a minimum of $200/week or $5/hour net for those on a minimum wage," said Prof Prasad.
"These are not ideas just made up on a whim. We have analysed the trends and the figures and it is very, very possible.
"Grant the NFP the social contract to make it happen, and we will.
"The current minimum wage rate of $2.32 an hour is simply insufficient for a livelihood of a family of four.
"This rate means our workers on minimum wage earn $104.40 for a 45 hour working week. Even if the wage rate is increased to $2.68, it will be $120.60," said Prof Prasad.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Fiji and World Environment Day


World Environment Day
June 05
Today, the Fijian people join citizens from all around the world to celebrate World Environment Day. We can all be proud that we come together at a time when Fiji is leading the world to defend our natural environment from two of the greatest threats it has ever faced – the degradation of our oceans and seas, and the disastrous impacts of climate change.
I am currently in New York, where Fiji is co-hosting the first-ever United Nations Conference on Oceans. And in November of this year, I will be heading to Bonn, Germany to preside over the global negotiations on climate change, known as COP23.
Our oceans are home to most of the life on our planet and make up three quarters of the Earth’s surface. Oceans support the life of every person on earth and, for the Fijian people, our identity and well-being are tied intimately to the health of our oceans and marine resources.
Over the next several days in New York, Fiji will drive the international effort to reduce pollution and over fishing in our oceans – threats that strike at the heart of the Fijian way of life.  And I am fully committed to preserving the health of our oceans, for the sake of every Fijian, and every global citizen.
The destructive impacts of climate change also present a serious threat to our natural environment, as low-lying coastal areas are being washed away by rising seas, and increased global temperatures threaten the survival of all life on earth. Later this year, at COP23, Fiji will rally the world to defend and implement the Paris Agreement, so we can spare our world from the worst effects of climate change and give vulnerable nations a fighting chance to adapt to the climate-related effects we are already experiencing.
It is a tremendous honour and responsibility for Fiji, as the world looks to us to lead on issues of such importance to the protection of our environment. But to be true champions on these issues, we must treat out own islands with the same respect we are asking from the rest of the world.
I urge every Fijian to take time today to renew our commitment to take responsibility for our surroundings. We are lucky to live in one of the most beautiful places on the planet, and we should be an example to the world on environmental stewardship. If you see someone litter, tell them to stop. And if you see anyone violating our laws that protect our environment, report them, so we can safeguard our oceans and our islands today, and leave them in better condition for future generations.
Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Cane cutting season starts in Labasa

Labasa Mill Opens Today For Crushing

Labasa Mill Opens Today For Crushing
Fiji Sugar Corporation chief operating officer Navin Chandra at a sugarcane farm in Kulukulu, Waiqele, Labasa on May 31, 2017. Photo: Josaia Ralago
June 01
The Fiji Sugar Corporation (FSC) Labasa Mill will be opened today by the Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum for another crushing season.
This is projected to be a year of success for the mill as they are looking to crush 800,000 tonnes of cane.
The mill crushed 653,353 tonnes of cane last year.
FSC chief operating officer Navin Chandra said that farmers were excited as they were ready for a new crushing season.
“What we are looking at is the reduction in the tonnes sugarcane needed to make sugar.
“When you have less sugarcane needed to make sugar that is when there is a better yield for sugar,” Mr Chandra said.
“We are definitely looking at an improvement in mill performance and the tonnes of cane to tonnes of sugar (TCTS).
“We are expecting over 800,000 tonnes of sugarcane this year which has improved compared to last year. Sugar is made in the fields which means that is we need fresh green cane delivered to the mill as soon as possible, so a very important requirement is that we need quality cane into the mill.
“Then the milling process has to be very efficient so your boiling process, extraction process has to be efficient so if all work together we can all reach our per tonnes of cane to tonnes of sugar (TCTS) of around 8 to 8.2 this year and our budget is 8.5.”
One particular cane farmer, Mohammed Rafiq of Kulukulu in Waiqele, said he looked forward to this crushing season.

Edited by Jonathan Bryce

And also, this time from Fiji Times

41 harvesters for farms

Luke Rawalai
Friday, June 02, 2017
FORTY-ONE cane harvesters will be deployed to cane farms around the country this year.
Sugar Cane Growers Council chief executive officer Sundresh Chetty said of this, 21 were supported by Government for farmers co-operatives.
Mr Chetty said the rest of the harvesters were either privately owned or owned by other farming bodies.
"In Labasa we currently have nine harvesters and are expecting another five or four harvesters in the next few weeks," Mr Chetty said.
"So this will bring the number of harvesters in the North to about 14.
"It may take some time for the five harvesters to reach our shores because they are being shipped from overseas."
Mr Chetty said Government had allocated $2 million in the 2016/2017 National Budget to help farmers and farmers co-operatives purchase harvesters.
Mr Chetty said canecutters would be utilised where harvesters could not operate, such as on hilly cane farms.
"The idea is that when we provide the harvesters for the flat (farms), canecutters from these areas are freed to work in farms in the hilly areas," he said.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

FNU to build an arts complex

This is excellent news, that the FNU plan to build a brand-new complex for arts which I presume means visual arts, theatre, dance and music.  Gone are the days when these subjects were regarded as on the periphery of studies. When I taught art in Fiji I was one of the very few art teachers and even the training of teachers in these areas was minimal. A man or woman was expected to lump art, music and phys ed all together. Much better today and we know that there is work out there for artists, musicians, actors and so on.  (Article from Fiji Villagle)
FNU estimates costs to design and build a creative arts department in Nasinu
By Lena Reece
Wednesday 31/05/2017

Nigel Healey.
The Fiji National University is estimating costs to design and build a creative arts department in Nasinu that will be included in their capital budget for 2018.
This has been confirmed by Fiji National University Nigel Healey, who says that they have commissioned a comprehensive engineering report to establish the cost of repairing the Raiwai FNU campus and bringing it up to a high standard.
He adds that because the damage is quite extensive and the building is old, this cost was very high and the University Council concluded that it would be more economic to build a purpose‑built creative arts building, housing a television studio, performing arts theatre, mixing suites, sound‑proofed and music practice rooms.
Healey says that the Council has also considered the most appropriate location of a new facility and, because Raiwai campus is in an industrial zone with no sidewalks, it is not ideally suited for a university building. 
He adds that the consensus was to build the new facility at Nasinu campus, where there is a lot of unused land and space for car parking.
FNU Vice Chancellor says that the new building will give the campus a cultural hub.
Healey says that their Capital Infrastructure team is presently liaising with staff from the FNU creative arts departments to design the concept for the building.

Indian Division Labasa fundraising

Church Walk To Fundraise, Champion Civic Pride

Church Walk To  Fundraise, Champion Civic Pride
Methodist Church of Fiji Labasa and Savusavu Indian Circuit members after cleaning up roads and footpaths along Labasa to Seaqaqa on May 27, 2017. Photo: Shratika Naidu
May 30
In a bid to raise funds to build a church, the Methodist Church of Fiji Labasa and Savusavu Indian Circuit conducted a walkathon with a difference on Saturday.
Church representative Alfred Wiliame said they held a walkathon by holding a clean-up campaign from Labasa Town to Seaqaqa.
Mr Wiliame said more than 20 members started cleaning the streets, footpath and drains of Labasa from 5.30am.
“The members walked to collect rubbish and this is the first time we have done this. It is like a cleanup campaign and a walkathon for us,” Mr Wiliame said.
He said ‘cleanliness was next to Godliness’, thus the choice of their main activity for the walkathon.
Currently the congregation are having their services at a temporary shelter in Naodamu in Labasa.
They aim to raise $300,000 to build a church complex and the walkathon was one of the fundraising activities.
“The other reason we decided to have a clean-up campaign is because we have civic pride.
“We want people to practice the right way of disposing rubbish and refrain from throwing them on our streets, footpath and drains,” Mr Wiliame.
The church has also made an appeal to those who are willing to lend a helping hand to contact them on 9359794 or make a deposit into their Church Savings Account at Westpac – 9806351483.
Edited by Caroline Ratucadra