Posts Tagged ‘Fiji’

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.


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?

Recent initiatives in the Pacific prove we can find a street trading relationship that is a win-win for everyone.

The ‘informal’ economy continues to expand here in the Pacific. For example, recent research has found that as more people shake the delusion that being a buai trader is socially unacceptable, urban Papua New Guineans are quitting their 9-5 jobs to get in on the ‘green gold’ business. They soon realise the buai trade offers more lucrative prospects and better social security than the so-called ‘formal’ economy.

The expansion of self-employed trade can be seen as a positive, given the unparalleled economic advantages of this economy: it keeps prices down, and the income generated (based on using home-grown resources and capital) stays in our country and communities.

But, as this economy expands, the market infrastructure struggles to accommodate its growth, resulting in more litter and overcrowded markets (as we examined in this post last week).

However, recognising the vital role of these entrepreneurs in our communities can go a long way to solving those issues, as recent initiatives in the Pacific have shown.

In the Solomon Islands, Fiji and Vanuatu, new ideas are helping to make markets safer and cleaner, for the traders and customers.

A new program by the Rakiraki Town Council aims to improve the financial skills of women vendors – how to budget, keep accounts, customer service, and so on.

Meanwhile the municipality of Ba, Fiji is showing that supporting and respecting our traders is in the best interest of consumers as well. Ba provides kitchens, toilets, showers, and safe low-cost places for women vendors and their children to sleep. In addition, “a learning and handicraft centre is helping to train and diversify traders’ skills and increase their incomes”, resulting in more diversity and choice for consumers and tourists.

These initiatives could turn out to be an economic and cultural boon for these progressive island nations. In what’s being touted as ‘the future of the economy’, government support for Durban, South Africa’s self-employed traders has resulted in one of the most successful duel economic and tourism ventures in the country.

It seems likely the People’s Economy will continue to grow and thrive throughout the Pacific. Oppressing and removing markets is therefore unlikely to solve the perceived ‘problem’ of markets: and will also result in the Pacific missing out on capitalising on arguably its most prospective economy.

With adequate government and community support for the Pacific’s most vital trade, we can clean-up our cities and promote and improve the sustainable, diverse, and lucrative People’s Economy that has sustained our peoples and our ways for 50,000 years.

* Watch: Making marketplaces safer in Fiji

While the rest of the  “developed” world talks about  mitigating the effects of climate change, the Pacific is dealing with the effects.  When will the  world’s biggest polluters wake up to the fact that your way of life  and the greed of  large corporations is killing  whole  nations in the Pacific?  
This following article was taken from the Time Magazine.

Tarawa atoll, Kiribati, is seen in an aerial view. Fearing that climate change could wipe out their entire Pacific archipelago, the leaders of Kiribati are considering an unusual backup plan: moving the populace to Fiji.
The government of Kiribati has no shortage of ambitious ideas to combat the threat of rising tides that could sink the country. Including packing up and moving somewhere else. According to the Associated Press, the nation’s cabinet is reviewing options to migrate citizens to a Fijian island, located more than 1,000 miles away. The Kiribati cabinet is looking into buying 6,000 acres on Fiji’s Viti Levu island for $9.6 million, the AP reported. The plan reportedly still needs to be approved by the country’s parliament before it moves forward. “We’re trying to secure the future of our people,” said
President Anote Tong to the news outlet. “The international community needs to be addressing this problem more.”

Kiribati’s leaders had also considered building a man-made island with a $2 billion estimated price tag or outfitting their island with sea walls, according to the U.K.’s The IndependentMigrating to the Fijian island was said to be a “last resort” move by President Tong. “This is the last resort, there’s no way out of this one,” Tong said, according to The Telegraph. “Our people will have to move as the tides have reached our homes and villages.”

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