Fiji Times

SUVA. Fiji (Feb. 13) – Abuse of kava, the traditional ceremonial drink, has reached proportions that are not only causing serious health but social problems as well.

The call and concern by the Methodist Church this week on the excessive drinking of kava by its ministers, especially elders, who should in fact be role models, is a timely reminder of kava abuse.

Kava not only affects the spiritual life of people. It is creating a major social problem, already outranking alcohol and tobacco, in its evil effects on society.

Many will argue that it's a religious drink. But this still doesn't make it right to abuse it.

Each day, kava gathers a harvest of victims. Many people have lost their jobs because of low productivity or absenteeism because of excessive drinking.

Families break up when neglected and partners are forced to look out of the relationship. Social workers say women are involved in extra-marital affairs because their husbands spend too much time at either watering holes or around the kava bowls.

The truth needs to be said again. Excessive kava drinking stops men from functioning fully, both socially and physically.

By the time they reach home after wasting so many hours drinking, they are too lazy to spend time with their family.

The family's income is seriously depleted because part of it is used to buy kava and tobacco. Children suffer because school fees cannot be paid. And, that's not taking into account quality time wasted.

It's not only Fijian families affected. There is a growing number of Indians and others addicted to kava. More women and young people are consuming kava, using the excuse that it promotes good relations and religion. This is far from the truth.

Because of its negative effect on productivity, many organizations have banned kava drinking during working hours. But kava can be a source of prosperity for many families.

There is a booming kava farming and export industry that is providing a reliable source of income for hundreds of families, especially in the islands which do not have alternative cash crops.

Kava export earnings can surpass any other export, including sugar.

As a cash crop, kava offers employment and good returns for farmers. The vacuum left by copra and cocoa in the farming sector has been taken by kava. But that does not justify its abuse.

Drinking kava in itself is not harmful. If it is respected for its traditional relevance and not abused, it can do this nation a lot of good.

February 14, 2005

Fiji Times: http://www.fijitimes.com/


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