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Hustle, Kava and a Clown Car

Posted by Georgie Scott Jul 11, 2017

These keywords represent a summation of our first week for the Fiji Fuel Assessment team.

The week began with an intense few days of hustling, preparation and organisation for our two night stay in the Keiyasi village. From Keiysasi, our intention was to visit five inland villages within the Noikoro and Nasikawa districts. What better way to empathise than to fully immerse ourselves in the Fijian inland village culture!

The villages we selected to visit were Nawairabe, Korolevu, Nubuyanitu, Korovou and Draubuta.

Over the wet season, flooding of bridges reduced accessibility to these villages, meaning the previous project group was unable to visit and empathise with these villages. Furthermore, close proximity of the villages to Keiysasi village, coupled with a previously established affiliation with Project Everest, our group to base ourselves from this village for the duration of the village visits.

In alignment with cultural mandate, visits to these villages requires the offering of kava to the village chief or headman and the participation in a kava ceremony. Having participated in multiple kava ceremonies over the course of 2 days, we can honestly say that we all have established strong opinions about kava. Some love it; others, not so much!

 

Nawairabe

The first village we visited was Nawairabe village; population of approximately 100 people. The primary crops grown by this village are cabbage, melon, corn, cassava, kava. Cooking is generally performed in a hut structure separate from the house as the smoke is a concern for children. Firewood is the main source of cooking fuel in this village as it is readily available and gives the food a smoky taste which is preferred by the Fijians. Men are responsible for the weekly collection within this village. Kerosene is primarily used during the rainy season when the firewood is difficult to light and costs approximately $2 per litre which is considered expensive. Three diesel generators are used for lighting and charging electronics such as phones.

 

Korolevu

Korolevu, being  one of the biggest villages visited, is inhabited by approximately 700 people. At the beginning of 2017, construction of a seawall commenced with the intention to protect the village against seasonal flooding due to it's geographic location. Farming is the primary source of income, with villagers selling surplus produce in order to buy rice, sugar and kerosene (as an alternative to firewood). Kerosene costs $50 per month for 20L and is not considered expensive. Apart from firewood and kerosene for cooking, solar panels are present for phone charging and lighting.

 

Nubuyanitu

Village population of Nubuyanitu is around 250 to 300 and comprised of primarily youths. Farmers from this village cultivate a wide range of produce such as kava, cassava, watermelon, peanuts, corn, taro and bananas. In contrast to Korolevu, Nubuyanitu has it's own electricity generator, power from which is available from 6 to 9pm. The overarching sentiment regarding electricity is that access will be enabled within 5 to 10 years.

In addition, we were surprised to see two gas stoves in this village. A retired school teacher explained that gas stoves were only used when there’s a party i.e. where food is required for a larger group. In such instances, kerosene acts as a backup for firewood.

 

Korovou

Korovou is a relatively small village consisting of 100 people and had limited English speakers. Similar to the other villages, Korovou villagers also love cooking with firewood; however they believe it is faster than kerosene. Kerosene is considered to be fairly expensive at $4/L and is perceived as an appropriate marriage gift. Compared to the other villages, Korovou was the only village that expressed real concern of the health risks associated with smoke inhalation. Diesel generators and solar panels were present for electricity generation.

 

We had initially planned to visit Draubuta on the final day; however, after speaking to the Keiyasi villagers, they mentioned that the journey would take 3 hours by car due to the steep incline of the road and a 15 minute hike to the village due to restricted vehicle access. The group reached a consensus to cancel our visit. This decision arose from consideration of resources such as time as well as the opportunity cost associated with 7 hours of travel in addition of engaging with the village.

We felt that at that point of the week it was important that we utilised our time to collate our data and document our findings in order to direct our future efforts for the prototyping phase of the project.

 

Friday morning the team got into the clown car one last time and headed back to Sigatoka. What started off as three people in the boot, turned into an optimistic five and created some good quality banter amongst the group. Upon arrival at the cottage, we plunged into preparation for week 2. Having further clarification on our four avenues and data from our visits, we were all eager to begin prototyping in the following weeks.

 

 

Written by Larissa Steele, Vicky Ye and Krystal Kenndy

 

 

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