FIJI WOOD CARVERS THREATEN ‘VESI’ FORESTS

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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji TV, Oct. 6) – Fiji’s age-old tradition of carving tanoa – ceremonial wooden kava bowls - is under serious threat, conservationists say.

A study by conservation group World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has discovered that the island renowned for this tradition, Kabara, has overharvested its Vesi trees.

[PIR editor’s note: Kabara is a very small island located in the Lau group in the southeastern part of Fiji.]

According to the organization, just 2.2 square kilometers of the island’s former resource of 28.2 square kilometers of Vesi forest still remains.

With most of the island’s population of about 500 dependent on wood carving, alarm bells are ringing.

People on Kabara are now being taught a new word, sustainability.

The high number of wild goats on the islands eating vesi offshoots hasn't helped either in regeneration.

Another major contributing factor is that 22 percent of households on Kabara own chainsaws, and everyone else has access to a communal one.

Forest reserves are now recommended; so too is the diversification of the island’s economy.

Driven largely by economic demand from urban centers, people here are now caught in a dilemma.

[PIR editor’s note: Vesi is the Fijian word for ironwood or teak, a hardwood tree that’s commonly used in the making of canoes and traditional housing foundations in the Pacific.]

October 6, 2005

Fiji TV: http://www.fijitv.com.fj/

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