Archive for the ‘Fiji’ Category

By Claire

Development is a big word. It essentially depends on who is selling and who’s buying the idea of ‘development’.

Most of us have bought what the ‘the others’ define as development: going to formal school; getting a degree or masters or whatever paper it is that says you are qualified enough to have an opinion that is worth getting paid for on a particular subject; the acquiring a job where what you get paid is more than what you need, so you can buy what you DON’T need to show others who care about the same petty things. Fast flashy cars, big houses, designer clothes, latest electronic gadgets etc.

There was a time in my life where I cared and sought for all those petty things.  The clothes, the hair, the shoes, the nails, the bags, the phones, the movies and all those things that Marie Claire, Hello!, Elle, Blackbeat, Dolly and Girlfriend told me were ‘must haves for this season’ (seriously, ‘seasons’ in tropical Papua New Guinea?!) Jeez! I cringe whenever I have a conversation about childhood dreams with my cousins (we’re Bougainvillian), who compared to me were so practical, noble and unselfish. Although I’m glad I went through that cringe-worthy phase.

I was in the midst of all the pettiness that ‘the others’ perceive as modern/developed/cool. So many words to describe something so plastic and SO fragile that all you need is a week back in a place where your survival depends on what you do and then, you realize what a façade all those so-called important things are.

At the end of the day what we want most out of life is to be happy! Happiness is that ever-elusive kudo, that nirvana, the heaven that we all strive for. AND the truth is ‘the must haves for this season’, the iPhones, the ‘skinnies’, the Nikes, the ‘bling’ do not make up this ‘happiness’.

Happiness and Development. Supposedly synonymous states. Both are states that we allude to and want to obtain, we want to be happy and we want to be developed.

I can honestly say that I witnessed both these states co-existing in perfect tropical bliss on these two tiny island nations called Fiji and the Cook Islands.

Viti Levu. From one end of the island to other the things that ‘the others’ allude to when they speak of development: education, health services, law and order; these things can all be found from Nadi to Suva. Furthermore the capital of Fiji (Suva) has, in my opinion, the perfect mix of modern convenience and traditional lifestyle.

Rarontonga. Breathtakingly beautiful and peaceful! The stuff that all tropical island getaway dreams are made of. You know, the white sandy beaches, turquoise waters, swaying coconut palms and clean quaint yards with their neatly arranged neighbourhoods. Perfectly planned towns and all citizens taken care of.

At first I carried myself like a true Mosbi (Port Moresby) person. I watched my back, held onto my bag tightly, made note of who bumped me and was ever vigilant to make sure no-one took a swipe at my bilum. After a few hours it hit me that no one looked like they were protectively hugging their bags and lo and behold! There were no fences!

Maybe I’m wrong, maybe I’m naïve, but in my opinion happiness is something you feel when you are doing what you should; when ou should; for who you should at the moments they matter.

Happiness isn’t consistent – that isn’t humanly possible. People you care about die, people you care about hurt you, people you care about move away, people you care about don’t care about you. But if you remember your sadness and pain more clearly than your happiness surely that must mean the happiness happens often enough for it not to be memorable unlike the sadness.

I’ve digressed. Back to the point. Happiness and Development. I saw both of these in Viti Levu and Rarotonga. The thing about happiness and being able to enjoy modern conveniences, functioning government services (health, law and justice, education) AND having extra money to spend is that you don’t NEED mining projects, or plantations, or agricultural projects, logging or anything that is alien to our culture to achieve this. Development if it means all these mining projects, plantations, agricultural projects and logging will not bring happiness. Maybe it’s time we stopped buying ‘DEVELOPMENT’ and start making Progress – doing it OUR way.

Then we might remember that we ARE happy without these big mining projects, plantations, agricultural projects, logging and other alien million dollar operations. Those alien operations don’t equate to happiness but doing what should be done, at the correct moment, with and to the correct people does bring that ever-elusive kudo, that nirvana, closer and produces varying degrees of happiness.


By Serafina Qalo, The Fiji Times

ROKO Tui Cakaudrove Ro Aca Mataitini believes a healthy lifestyle lasts a lifetime. And with the introduction of the Cakau Green program, his team is set to promote healthy living in the province.

The program, which requires the villagers to be vegetarians for one week out of every month, is expected to begin this year.

“Some villagers have already started following the program which is aimed at promoting a healthy lifestyle amongst our people,” Ro Aca said. “I believe fruit and vegetables which can be planted in our own backyard are enough to supply our healthy menu.”  

Ro Aca’s favourite shopping centre is the market. “Whenever I go to town on Saturdays to do shopping, I always visit the market for fresh fruits and vegetables. I prefer the market for fruits and vegies so I hardly ever go to the supermarket to get them. And he often eats fruits for dinner. “If I don’t have any fruits at home then I turn to boiled vegetables and I am just enjoying a cheap yet very healthy meal.”

Now he’s taking his own diet out to the villages to promote the importance of healthy living. “Our health depends on the choices of food we eat so choosing wisely when it comes to preparing menus for our families’ matter,” Ro Aca said. “So this program is to help our people in the province eat healthy, live healthy and live a longer life.

“The Cakau Green program only involves vegetables and fruits. There is no inclusion of meat in it and that is any type of meat.”

Preventable diseases, diabetes and obesity are some of the health issues growing in the Pacific as we abandon our traditional – incredibly healthy – diets for unhealthy store food and fast food. “Non-Communicable Diseases have been a major cause of death in the country and claiming lives at a very young age.” Ro Aca said.

Apart from the healthy vitamins and nutrients that fruits and vegetables provide, Ro Aca has certainly saved money from keeping a vegetarian diet for a week every month. He spends less than $50 a week on groceries. In addition, eating fresh fruits and vegetables saves time used for cooking, and adds energy to your day. “The vegetables and fruits are not only healthy but lighter compared to meat. So with this, I am able to do my work and even do extra work in the day because I don’t feel sleepy or too heavy to move around from a big meal.”

The Cahau Green program has so far been promoted in villages on Taveuni, with visits to Vuna, Lavena, Naselesele, Qamea and Somosomo. The healthy lifestyle awareness program was also be taken to the districts of Natewa and Tunuloa. Ro Aca said villagers welcomed the idea of voluntarily having a vegetable diet once a month.

“We are promoting healthy living for our people and we will continue to work with district reps and village headmen to promote the healthy living program,” he said. “We are not forcing anyone, we just hope that people realise the importance of living a healthy lifestyle as it is for their own benefit.”

Radio Australia last week reported that Fiji’s second largest island, Vanua Levu, had placed a tabu on another section of its coast in response to declining fish stocks.

Speaking to Radio Australia, Chief Tui Cakau Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu said overfishing and illegal fishing meant there was not enough fish to meet the demands of the island’s hospitality industry – about 1,000kg of fish per week.

According to the ABC, the tabu bans commercial fishing, and places certain areas off limits – even to subsistence fishermen – for six months.

Reportedly, “a similar tabu is already in place around the island’s south western tip”.

Traditional tabu areas hold an important role in fishing conservation in Fiji. Invoking a tabu remains the dominant local form of marine conservation, for “small, inshore, or coastal tabu areas overseen by individual villages and opened periodically at the discretion of the village chief”. In many villages, tabus have become the basis of more modern approaches to conservation, including establishing marine protected areas.

For example, the Locally-Managed Marine Area Network (LMAA) seeks to use deeply embedded understandings of the importance of tabu to ensure the success of its modern approach to marine conservation.

“This type of traditional temporary tabu typically results in increased harvest at the end of the closed period. However, to maximize the beneficial effects of a tabu area, recent studies indicate that longer or permanently closed areas are best,” the LMAA says on its website.

“Today, tabu areas in Fiji are being set up with the joint agreement of the chiefs and the people, unlike in the old days when a chief dies. The tabu imposed after the death of a chief now serves to reinforce the modern tabu area.

“The tabu applies only to a portion of the fishing ground (about 10-20%), leaving the rest for community members to harvest for their consumption or livelihood, with the objective of enhancing the productivity of the open harvest areas.

“The creation of marine protected areas (MPAs) or reserves – modern versions of the tabu system – has followed the traditional rites, with formal declaration and ceremonies performed, traditional marking of the closed area, and notification of neighbouring users.”

According to this website, Fiji now has about 177 MPAs, most managed by local villages.

Similarly, the newly placed tabu on Vanua Levu’s eastern coast is just one part of a broader strategy to tackle the problem of declining fish stocks.

Tui Cakau told Radio Australia the landowners would also meet with fisheries officials to work out how to police the coast more effectively.

As he said, the act of invoking a tabu defined his people’s stance on the issue very clearly:

“It’s just a matter of us putting things in black and white,” he said.

Fiji’s Fisheries Department recognises the initiative can work because it has public support, given it is community-driven. It also helps Fisheries deal with a problem they don’t have enough resources to tackle alone.

The tabu is an example of how Pacific cultural traditions adapt to ensure people can maintain harmonious relationships with the world. Initiatives based on traditional customs work because they are part of a people’s inherited cultural worldview. People are more likely to support and be engaged with an initiative if it respects their understandings of their integrated relationship with the environment and all living things.

What are your thoughts about using the tabu for modern conservation?


IN the clamour of nations frantically vying to make their voice heard at the gargantuan Rio+20 Earth Summit, it’s almost certain the Pacific will remain a drop in the ocean.

Yet a small group of Pacific women consider the environmental issues in the region so critical that they have made the long trip to Brazil to represent the Liquid Continent regardless.

The 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development, held 20 years after the seminal original Rio Earth Summit in 1992, opened today and is billed as “an unprecedented opportunity to build the future we want”.

‘The future’, as we know from Copenhagen, is hammered out in summit deals palatable to the power-broker nations, while the voices of small island nations on the frontline of multiple environmental crises get swallowed in the feeding frenzy.

But that hasn’t stopped Maureen Penjeuli, Noelene Nabulivou and Rosa Koian from trying.

Representing civil society organisations (CSOs) from Fiji and Papua New Guinea, these women have been campaigning hard inside and outside summit conference rooms to make the Pacific an issue.

“We wanted to put the Pacific at the centre of the debate,” Koian, a coordinator at PNG CSO Bismarck Ramu Group, said. “The Pacific sometimes gets forgotten, but the reality is our region is at the forefront of some of the most pressing environmental issues in the world right now.”

Indeed, while the myriad Rio speeches and press conferences take place, the Pacific’s unique ecologies are fighting urgent challenges.

The region is home to some of the most pristine and biodiverse flora and fauna in the world, but an influx of foreign extractive industry activity threatens these. In PNG, 10% of customary land has been stolen or leased for commercial purposes – often without landowner consent – almost overnight.

This landgrab is also robbing livelihoods in other Pacific nations at a pace that could destroy not only the environment, but thousands of years of diverse traditional cultures and lifestyles, within a generation.

“We have to go back to the roots of poverty – where did that come from?” Koian said. “If we look at how masses are now left in such a poor state, it’s because they’re landless. If we compare these landless people to Papua New Guineans, most of whom still own their customary land, we can safely say those people who have land are more free than those who do not.

“So if we want to achieve a level of poverty reduction, we have to return a lot of the stolen land to indigenous people.”

The Pacific’s environmental battleground is not just being fought on land. Even the seas are being targeted for exploitation, as predatory mining companies seek to make the region a guinea pig for Experimental Seabed Mining (ESM). The Pacific delegation has been hitting the streets to bring the ESM protest to global attention, spearheaded by Penjueli from Fiji’s Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG) and Noelene Nabulivou, a Pacific representative in the Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN) global network.

“Our message to our governments remains strong – we the people reject experimental seabed mining in the Pacific,” Penjueli said. “What is needed in Rio is a strategic refusal by small island states and allies to participate in this false development course”.

The Cook Islands, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Marshall Islands, Fiji and Kiribati are all targeted for ESM. Canada’s Nautilus Minerals wants to start shipping copper from the seafloor off the coast of PNG by 2013.

“In allowing essential ecosystems to be mined, we are part of a global industrialization process that views the environment as a means to profit, with environmental degradation, social exploitation, biodiversity loss, and violence as its consequence,” Penjueli said.

Koian admits she feels like a small fish in a big ocean. But that’s just the point, she said.

“As the Pacific, we have our problems, we have our strengths, we have our weaknesses, we have our ways,” she said.

“Together we’re going to ask world governments, if they are really serious about sustainable development, they have to re-think a development model that best fits all the different groups that exist in this planet. Because we cannot talk about a one-size fits all model.”


By Dirk Jena


Women showcase their handicraft. Dirk Jena suggests an economic system which places people at the centre and thereby protects their natural talents and resources. Picture: SUPPLIED/UNFPA

IN November last year, the Pacific Institute of Public Policy chairperson Nik Soni wrote, “We need economic policies that are tailored to our individual needs” in a paper where he argued that blanket application of modern economics cannot work for our ocean of islands.

This view is increasingly popular after four decades of attempting to move our island nations beyond the “developing” stages. Most of our islands are now punctuated with some of the main causes of chronic breakdowns of our global megalopolis: reckless urbanisation, mass production, heavy capital investments (destroying irreplaceable natural resources), centralised planning (usually devoid of resource owners’ concerns), increasing household debts etc.

Centralised decision-making and development planning contribute to the fragmentation of traditional structures and social capital which, without an alternative economic system to support its organic operations, collapses and forces villagers, hopelessly dependent on the market economy, to abandon their homes to seek new beginnings and livelihoods.

The renowned economist Ernst Schumacher predicted these impacts by modern economics. He supported smaller enterprises which utilised people’s talents while they provided for their families, on a scale that allowed for the recovery of natural resources being used.

Humanity has always worked better in groupings, which is why such age-old ways as practised in iTaukei villages for example, could realistically be used for development planning and implementation. Such understandings complement very well concepts like the Integrated Household Resource Management (IRHM) which already espouses shared responsibility for the benefit of all.

If this approach was then to be supported by an appropriate economics, the reporting slate of development effectiveness in our region could be very different.

For example, if we were to treat handicrafts as capital as opposed to merely an income then weavers would be more protective of the natural material they use, more efforts would presumably be made to protect indigenous knowledge of these practices and the mother-tongue would be appropriately (re)valued as vessels of such knowledge.

However, the dependency caused by the wisdom of contemporary economics is threatening such indigenous knowledge and skills which could be easily dismissed without an honest attempt at trying it as an alternative development approach: all for the ‘privilege’ of being part of the global economy.

Schumacher’s economics of ‘small is beautiful’ places people at the centre of economics and thus development, as opposed to treating them as statistics.

He was not alone: Gandhi preached the empowerment of village-based artisans which would ensure a solid foundation that would then support national development. He believed the poor could not be helped by mass production but by the production of the masses.

“Why care for people?” Schumacher asked. “Because people are the primary and ultimate source of any wealth whatsoever. If they are left out, if they are pushed around by self-styled experts and high-handed planners, then nothing can ever yield real fruit.”

* Dirk Jena is the director and representative of the United Nations Population Fund Pacific sub-regional office.