FIJI VILLAGERS STRUGGLE IN WAKE OF CYCLONE CLIFF

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By Serafina Qalo

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, April 30) – For about 20 years, the men of Fiji’s Vanuaumi Village in the tikina [district, subdivision of a province] of Saqani have depended on copra, kava and dalo [taro] farming as their source of income, supporting their daily livelihood and families' needs.

[PIR editor’s note: Saqani is located on Vanua Levu island, the second largest island in Fiji.]

The earnings helped villagers educate their children and meet traditional obligations.

Villager Jone Bakailako says although they face transportation problems to Savusavu Town to sell their produce, they never lose hope because their earnings reward them enough to cater for financial needs.

"Sometimes we all give in a little of whatever money we have to hire a carrier to take our crops to Savusavu," he said. "It is expensive, but we know we will recover the fare from the money we make selling copra which is why we always pitch in for a carrier to Savusavu," Bakailako said.

He says at the end of the day, villagers receive the best from the crop business.

Early last month, villagers were hit by Cyclone Cliff and most still cannot get over how the strong winds and rain damaged their farms.

[PIR editor’s note: In early April, Cyclone Cliff brought on heavy rain and strong winds to parts of Vanua Levu Island and the Lau Group in Fiji.]

"We are still in shock because our only source of income was damaged by the cyclone within a few hours of strong winds and heavy rain," Jone said. "Most of us don't know what to do now because our farms disappeared within minutes."

Jone says damaged crops have remained from the cyclone and they will be using them.

Another villager, Peni Ravulolo, says turning to fishing is impossible as the distance from the village to Savusavu Town is too long.

"We don't have ice-boxes or boats to take our fish to Savusavu," Ravulolo said. "We can go out and catch fish but going by carrier will not be good because the distance is long and by the time we get to town, the fish would be spoilt by the heat," Peni said.

The situation, the men say, has left villagers in dilemma, with many still trying to figure out ways to help them support their families.

"We have started planting again but it will take another six months to have our crops mature before we can get back on our feet financially," Ravulolo said.

Almost a month after the cyclone, villagers, looking back at what happened during the hour of Cyclone Cliff, are glad no lives were lost.

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