FIJI VILLAGERS THRIVE ON ILLEGAL MARIJUANA

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By Abinesh Gopal

SUVA, Fiji Islands (August 18, 2001 – Fiji Times)---Marijuana farming appears to be a major source of income for villagers in Nadroga and Navosa.

They have been able to build decent homes, educate their children, buy vehicles and improve their living standards through marijuana cultivation.

And no amount of police raids seems to deter farmers from planting marijuana.

One such area is in the highlands is Nakasayaga, about 75 kilometers (45 miles) from Sigatoka Town up Valley Road.

The area was recently the target of police, who seized more than 175 kilograms (385 pounds) of marijuana from the settlement during a raid a week ago Friday.

Although the drug seizure and arrest of three brothers in connection with the find has scared villagers to some extent, it is not expected to deter others from cultivating.

In an interview Thursday, two young farmers from a remote village in Nadroga said that marijuana was the only means of income for them.

One of them, a 25-year-old, said: "Apart from planting root crops and vegetables for our daily needs, there is no other major source of income for us.

"Though there is a risk, we find marijuana cultivation to be an easy source of income," he said.

"People in the villages have been able to renovate their houses, educate their children, buy good clothes, eat good food and have a decent life through this."

"And it seems the more the authorities are trying to stop marijuana cultivation, the more it is growing."

The youths said people from as far as Suva traveled to the farmers, especially at night, to buy marijuana, which is then sold, to users and peddlers on the streets.

"After a police raid nearby, whatever marijuana was growing was prematurely harvested by other farmers as a precaution because no one knows who will be next," he said.

The other young farmer agreed marijuana cultivation had improved the living standards of most villagers. "I can say it is our bread and butter because we know how our lives have improved through marijuana," he said.

For additional reports from the Fiji Times, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Fiji Times.

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