Fijis independence day and the economy of a small island

Salsa af Stavsnas
Ellinor Ristoff Staffan Ehde
Thu 9 Oct 2014 05:06
Today we celebrated Fijis independence from UK in the early 1900. Here in Fulaga it is celebrated with the school cildren competing on a oven hot play ground in the middle of the school yard. As the children do that the adults sit in the shadow created by tarps that are stretched between poles, there they drink kava and smoke cigarettes. We sat under a tarp provided by the Australian Aid, according to the text and logo on it.
To be honest it is strange to see the principle of the school drink kava (it is a drug) and smoke a cigarette on a school ground. But things are done differently here and that is what makes travelling so interesting.
Erika and Andreas participated in the games and the team Andreas was put in did actually suffer some from his attendance. He had a hard time understanding what was going on. The biggest shock to him was probably when he though he was in a game of soccer and actually got the first ball in the game, he kicked and worked his way forward and was surprised to find himself pulled to the ground and somebody took the ball in his hand. You would think the shape of the ball would have given him a hint but I guess it did'nt, he looked at us like "WHAT HAPPENED HERE?!!!" Well it is called rugby and we do not play that in Sweden (well some do).
After the games we were served a lunch on the floor and there was sea cucumber spliced and filled with some other creature, fish with everything ( I mean everything that comes in a fish), kasava, noodles with curry and rice. Today for the first time they made no difference that we are palangis (foreigners) so we had to eat with our hands. To be honest, that is a strange feeling. Try it next time, not with hamburgers but with a fish stew and noodles, you are going to want to clean your fingers all the time. Like eating a sugar donut without licking your lips.Good luck.
In front of me the monthly supply boat is just about to lift the anchor and leave. Another busy day by the village landing place.
What's interesting to see is how the economy works here and how it is affected by a big town like Suva.
Let's look at their monetary economy and as written before today they can manage with 300 FJD per year, wich is about 120Euros.
A small sum of money but they will get more and more involved and the importance of money will escalate. One thing the goverment has done here recently, actually just finished when we arrived, is a solar panel project were every house has been equipped with a set of panels, a pole and a battery bank.
It is all good for just a couple of light bulbs and a radio. With an inverter you ca probably run something around 150W for a while.
This program is not volontary, everybody had to be part of it and now they have to pay 18FJD per month to the goverment..
In contrary to most other pacific islands were we have been this village is still doing well from nature resources around the island.
They go out fishing for their needs, they collect clams in low tide, they have their small fields where they grow kasava and other roots.
In the trees they have mangos, bread fruit, bananas etc.
They have a few pigs, plenty of chickens and sometimes they can eat a turtle, but on this island they claim not to be oriented in killing turtles.
I'm not saying it is an easy life, I'm just saying they are pretty self sufficient. BUT there are things they have learned to appreciate, an outboard engine on the village long boat makes life easier, so it needs fuel and so does the chain saw. In their kitchens they still burn wood and it is amazing how good they are in cooking over open fire.
Other things that make life easier is rice, noodles, flour, yeast and those things are brought to the village with the supply ship. To buy these things the village needs dollars.
So they trade and it can be interesting to know how much they get part of something sold in Suva, for instance a wooden traditional kava bowl that takes about 2 man weeks to make, hard wood work with hand tools, that is paid about 150-300 FJD. Imagine what an enormous amount of money it is if you look at the yearly spenditure. BUT that same bowl is then brought to Suva and sold for 1000 FJD.
There are a few middle men here.... Anyway that is one way to pay for your konveniences. The other is that when they know that the supply ship is coming  they will start fishing with frenzy, now they have to take more than they need themselves, so they use their longboat, yamaha engine and a big net to catch 80 fish in one draw. As soon as the supply boat comes in it goes in their fridge, the village has none.
A day or two before the boat arrives the collection of clams take a big leap upwards as a lot of the villagers go out to find them.
Crabs of course are in danger, but the village will also sell off their kasava so they need to take down more forest to grow more than what they need on the island.
So without being critical, far from actually as we are part of this system, but it becomes very obvious in this small scale community how things actually evolve in front of our eyes.This community is really a fragile small system that is just about to get into the "modern" world. Which actually means taking more from the earth than it can actually produce.