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By Esther Tinning

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Dec. 30) – In the late 1980's and early 1990's Luganville [on the Vanuatu island of Espiritu Santo] used to have only one kava bar that was owned by Aaron Toa of Pentecost.

But like Port Vila, this northern Vanuatu town is gradually seeing a dramatic increase in the number of these Nakamals, now commonly known as kava bars.

The former well-known kava bar owner from north Pentecost who resides in Luganville, has been keeping a low profile but he has an interesting story to tell anyone who is curious enough to ask.

Up until the early 1990s not so many people drank this local drink, which in traditional Vanuatu society was only drunk during special occasions.

When other people saw that they could make good money from kava both Port Vila and Luganville saw a major boom in th kava business that continued to grow to this day.

These days one can find these bars just about anywhere in town and in residential areas.

Amid growing concerns over proper hygiene kava drinkers these days prefer kava bars to observe proper health standards.

Many believe the number of kava bars should be limited and relevant authorities should ensure that proper hygiene remains top priority.

The buildings should also be of good standard and if possible operators must ensure that the facilities used such as shells or bowls be washed with hot water daily.

Most of the kava bars today are on the same building used by the owner and the family as their home, which poses some health risks for the occupants, especially kids.

The northern town has also seen an increase in the youths drinking kava heavily and appropriate authorities, including parents should act to stop this dangerous trend.

Kava is arguably one of the major income earners for many in town but an improvement in the standard of the bars and services will go a long way to help not only the continued growth and popularity of the Vanuatu social drink, but also everyone in Luganville.

January 2, 2006

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