Monday, December 17, 2007


NAMAU's cocoa farmers say the market price of their cocoa beans are too low. One kilogram of cocoa beans costs $5.

This, said Tevita Niumou, is very cheap considering the process followed to extract cocoa beans, and the fact that it is pure cocoa. "The market price before was 70 cents a kg and farmers had to transport cocoa beans all the way to Suva to sell the cocoa beans," he said.

He said even though there were thousands of cocoa trees growing in the village, farmers were not getting the proper revenue they needed. "Each tree produces enough cocoa to fill a one kg bag," he said.

"We need to up our sale price to a satisfactory level," he said. He said plans to construct the first chocolate factory in Korovou and in Fiji was their biggest hope for the village in terms of cash revenue. "Once the factory is established we would be able to control our selling price at $25 a kg," he said.

He said the village needed a lot of change and farmers needed the extra cash for their families and the village. "All we can do now is continue with what we're doing and pray for assistance to quicken the plans to construct the factory," he said.

Tevita said the village did not want their produce to be passed through a middle-man and preferred to do everything on their own.

Adapted from the


THE cocoa plant has inspired women to experiment in the kitchen. So much so that adding cocoa to their dishes and drinks for that unique flavour has almost become habit, a temptation hard to resist.

For instance, the chances of one receiving a chilled chocolate shake are far greater. Women and young girls of Namau in Tailevu are adding the cocoa ingredient to the local Fijian food like tavioka yaca (Fijian bread cooked with cassava) as well as cakes and soft drinks.

The new industry, having women are better utilising their skills in the kitchen. But this time they are adding a bit of cocoa to the recipe. Cocoa farming is the big talk in Tailevu now and at a recent Tailevu Provincial meeting a variety of cakes were served at tea time, all of which were blended with varying quantities of cocoa. These cakes were baked by women of Namau.

Namau villager Nanise Niuvou is one of the women who occasionally adds cocoa to her baking. The mother of four is 42 years old and the wife of cocoa farm manager Tevita Niuvou. She said she was also selling cocoa chocolate lollies, which sold like hot cakes at the village.

"Children love it and adults are buying them in the numbers for chaser during grog (kava) sessions," she said, smiling. Nanise's family said finding the perfect food source to blend with cocoa was challenging. In baking though, steady progress was being made.

At Namau village, fermenting cocoa beans is normally the job for the men and women would then afterwards taste and determine the quality of the cocoa produce. Men, they say, did not have very good taste buds and agreed to anything regarding the quality of the cocoa. So the task of tasting the cocoa after fermentation was left to the women. They had the honour of rating the quality of cocoa.

Nanise and her family say maintaining and producing cocoa on the farm was challenging and sometimes women would go out with the men to harvest cocoa pods from the trees. However, Nanise, like her husband, believes that producing cocoa will one day benefit their village in the near future.

And this, she says, keeps her going despite the hard work involved.
Adapted from the

Thursday, December 13, 2007


YOUNG people need to get out of their comfort zone if they want to succeed in life, says Usaia Cirikiwai.

I was introduced to the 28-year-old man from Ovalau at the Youths at Risk Seminar two weeks ago in Lautoka. He did not hesitate to spare me the time to tell his story and the experiences he faced in life so far.
Usa came across as a person with a bubbly character willing to reach out and help anyone.

Usa as he is known to those close to him, is a Pacific Stars life skills trainer, an empowerment training program funded by United Nations International Children's Education Fund. The Pacific Life Skills program is an empowerment training program funded by UNICEF but facilitated by different youth-based organisations including the Youth and Sports Ministry.

Usa has had his fair share of problems and describes his life from an early childhood to a young adult as a roller-coaster ride. "Young people nowadays are always trying to be like somebody else other than themselves," he said. "What many young people fail to realise is that we are all born standout and are unique individuals."

Usa said his problems started when his parents were separated when he was five years old. He said he moved around staying with one relative to another and the same went with his school in Suva. He said by the time he reached Class Four he went to Levuka until he finished his primary education.
In 1993, Usa returned to Suva at the age of 13 to live with his father and be reunited with his young sister Vani Digogo. "When my parents separated I lived with my father and his family while my sister lived with my mother and her family," he said. "But when I came back from Levuka my sister and I had to live with my dad and our stepmother.

"It was good to be reunited with my sister but it was short-lived. "My sister and my step other had troubles between them. One day an argument broke out in the house where my sister received a beating but instead of rushing her to the hospital to tend to the swelling on her leg she was kept in the house. "Someone applied a warm cloth to the swelling as it got worse. By the time she was taken to the hospital it was too late. She died on Palm Sunday in 1993." Emotional speaking about his sister, Usa said after his sister passed away he lost interest in school work and started following his friends for about a year.

"I would get ready to go to school but end up following my friends to roam the streets. "This went on for about a year. Not long after that I met my mother. We had never met since the time my parents split. "I went to live with my mother and she made be go back to school and repeat Form Three."
Usa said in 1995 he was sent to school and repeated Form Four at Rishikul Sanatan College. By the time he was to have entered Form Five, he went to Koro where he stayed for a while. "When I went to the village for a break I liked it so much that I did not want to come back. "I spent two and half years in Koro where I practically did almost everything from copra to planting cassava and dalo.

"I had a stint in working in one of the hotels there but came back to the mainland to live with my mother and her family." Usa said he came back to Suva in 2001 and not long after that his mother moved to Vanua Levu, leaving him at home on his own. He said while his mother stayed in Vanua Levu she would pay the bills from there but things became difficult. "It got to a stage where the phone bill went right up to $300 and there was no one else in the house to pay the bill except me," he said.

"So it prompted me to go out and look for a job." Usa finally got a job as a security officer and was posted at the British High Commission in Suva. He said he spent two years at the British High Commission as a personal guard. He said in 2004, he attended the youth empowerment program and got introduced to Raleigh International, an organisation based in the United Kingdom.

"I went on the Raleigh International three-month program and it was the turning point in my life. "While undertaking that program I was required to do 50 hours of community work. "I did service at the St Christopher's Home and the Chevalier Boys hostel. "When I saw the joy on the children's faces from the little work I did to make their home a bit more comfortable, I knew that this was the career path I wanted to take up.

"We painted the walls of the home and helped out around the home in carrying out repair works and whatever had to be done." Usa said once he had completed his community service he was told about the life skills workshop which took place in the Pacific. "In 2004 to 2005 I attended a small workshop in the Pacific on life skills training of trainers.

"In May 2005 I was approached by the Chevalier Boys hostel to look after 28 boys which was a full-on thing. "But when the hostel closed last year from the 28 boys from I started with, we were left with 12 boys. "The rest of the boys had returned to their homes.

"So far my life has been like a roller-coaster. "Hopefully it gets better from here onward." Usa said when he was not involved in charity and volunteer work he spent his spare time coaching a sevens team from the Nanuku settlement.

He said as the festive season approached, he was working with the shoeshine and wheel barrow boys organise Christmas in the Park.

Adapted from the


YESTERDAY a 10-year-old boy lost his battle to brain tumour.

Bernard McGoon was evacuated to the Mercy Hospital in Auckland, New Zealand last month after his family launched a public appeal to help pay for his medical operation. He died yesterday in Auckland after being discharged from hospital on Friday.

He had always been a lively boy so if there was one thing his parents Charlie and Melyn never dreamt of was the loss of their eldest child and the only boy at that.

Bernard was born in August of 1997 and just one month after his 10th birthday he was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Melyn's younger sister Nancy King said the initial reaction to his condition was shock, considering that he was the oldest grandchild.

"There was hurt and a lot of pain when we first heard about Bernard," she said. "More shock as Bernard was healthy one minute and diagnosed with a tumour the next." Nancy said her nephew was a lively boy. "Bernard was brought up by his papa (Lui) and nanna (Maggie) at the FSC compound in Lautoka.

"His papa always planned great things for him. One of them was for Bernard to study hard so he could buy a home for his mum and Bernard agreed to it. "He was a very considerate big brother; he took the role seriously, always watching out for his sisters Tehana and Cornelia.

"I remember once he did not come home on time and when he reached home, he was asked why he was late seeing as school had finished at 3pm. "He quietly explained that he waited with his friend because his friend's granddad was late in picking him up from school. "That's how considerate he was even for his age.

"Before he left for New Zealand, I spoke with him and he said thankyou Aunty Nancy for everything you are doing for me. "I couldn't believe that even in all his pain, he was thinking of thanking me or anyone for that matter. "He even asked all the nurses at the Lautoka Hospital Children's Ward what they wanted because he and his nanna would go shopping in New Zealand after his operation.

"He remained in high spirits to the end." In October, the family launched a public appeal to raise $70,000 for his medical operation in New Zealand. "We did a lot of crying those first weeks, waiting for the funds to come into Bernard's appeal account so we could send him overseas," Nancy said.

After his family was told of his condition, Lui King said the family of Natabua, in Lautoka were relying on divine intervention and public help to send Bernard overseas. That was on October 20. He was admitted at the Colonial War Memorial Hospital. In October, Bernard suffered a seizure, on World Teachers Day to be precise.

"I noticed he did not look well," his grandpa said. "I told him if he was not feeling well, he must not go to school but stay home but my grandson insisted he go since they would have programs in school." It was to be Bernard's last day at school. "When he returned in the afternoon, he became really sick," Lui said.

"He was sick throughout the weekend so we took him to Lautoka Hospital on Monday." Mr King said when Bernard had a seizure they were told he had to be transferred to the CWM Hospital in Suva for a scan.

Doctors at CWMH diagnosed him with a brain tumour. Bernard's condition had deteriorated further when he lost hand-eye co-ordination, experienced blurred double vision and was unable to open his eyes because of the pain. While doctors drained the liquid in Bernard's brain, Lui said a further operation to remove the tumour could only be done overseas.

He said a team of Australian surgeons in Fiji had been aware of his condition and advised his family that cranial surgery was impossible in Fiji. Nancy said Bernard and his granddad spent most of their spare time at Kulukulu, Sigatoka. "He was the first grandchild and baby in our home, we (aunties and uncles) used to dress him up funny and take pictures of him.
"He loved it because almost all the photos we have of him dressed up and with him smiling for the cameras. "He was also a clever boy, only dropped in exams when he was lazy to study but once he put his mind to it he could be very good at his school work. "He was part of his class quiz team, not accepting defeat when he was hospitalised, always telling his friends they should watch out when he came back to school because he would take his quiz team back to the top again."

The public appeal proved to be a great success. On October 30, his mum Melyn said Bernard was expected to be evacuated to New Zealand for treatment after more than half the $80,000 needed for surgery, travel and accommodation was raised in two weeks. She said she was deeply moved by how fast people responded to their appeal for help with about $40,000 collected.
Melyn said people she did not know from abroad had deposited money into the account they had opened specifically for her son's operation.

On November 2, the Ministry of Health advised that Bernard would fly out to New Zealand for surgery. He was accompanied by his grandmother and Dr Ben Reeves of the Fiji School of Medicine. Melyn said the visa application was approved immediately by the New Zealand High Commission.

"His chances are slim. Each day, he asks my mother Nanna, am I going to die?" Melyn said.
"He fell ill all too suddenly but this experience has been a real eye-opener and major challenge for us. "With him being the eldest grandchild and only grandson, you can imagine how it will affect my parents. This is a wake-up call. "He may not be the same after the surgery but it's a chance we're willing to take. If the New Zealand doctors find it is worse than what we have been told locally, then chemo has been suggested although it may drastically affect his IQ."

On November 24, realising that their son was just too far away from them, Melyn and Charlie flew to New Zealand. "They felt they needed to be with him and Ahura Resorts/Monarc, Melyn and Charlie's employers, were very supportive in giving them the necessary time to be with their son." By Monday, doctors had given Bernard three to five days to live.

His family was told there was nothing else doctors in New Zealand could do. Bernard could no longer communicate with his family. He was discharged from the Mercy Hospital in Auckland on Friday. Melyn said they were trying to come to terms with the fact that nothing else could be done to help Bernard. At 4.30am yesterday, Bernard passed on.

His father Charlie carried him and placed him in his mum's arms and there, he breathed his last breath. Melyn said her son was a fighter. "The doctors said he could lose his life after the blood clot was discovered in his brain but he came through it," she said. "They said Bernard may never open his eyes after the operation but he kept struggling to do so and he finally opened his eyes on December 3.

"He recognised family members around him in New Zealand. "He opened his eyes for two hours straight just to see all the visitors who came to visit. "The doctors gave him three to five days and last Friday they removed all the "drains" in order to let him go peacefully'. "When I spoke to my aunt, I asked that she tell him to hold on through the weekend in order for us to organise the necessary paperwork from this end.

"He did and I am thankful for that." Melyn said there has been so much pain since Bernard's diagnosis but her family learnt a lot. "Bernard's case touched so many people and brought out the best in humanity. "We raised a good amount of money in record time and we were amazed that some complete strangers in Fiji and abroad came forward to give toward Bernard's medical expenses.

"We learnt that God gives and God takes away and we remain thankful that Bernard was given to us for 10 years. "We know Bernard's illness has brought our families closer together." Melyn said families in the same situation should not lose hope and always try to do the best they can for the sick person.

"Even though they may lose their battle with the illness, you can find comfort in the fact that you did everything in your power to help that person," Melyn said.

Adapted from

Friday, December 7, 2007


A YOUNG man sat cross-legged, hunched over a pair of shoes that had obviously walked more than its fair share.

His posture never shifted as his fingers swiftly wove the needle through the leather. Only after his task was complete did he straighten up to stretch, the frown on his brow disappearing to give way to a smile.

It was a smile of satisfaction for Petero Dulukibau. The 19-year-old repairs shoes for a living. He has plied this trade from his home at Nawaido Village in Bua for the past three years. He says he is the only shoe repairer from his village up to Nabouwalu.

This, he said, was good for business but at times he was overwhelmed with work. "A lot of villagers come around with their broken shoes to get it fixed and no matter what the circumstance, I always make sure there is no credit," he said.
"Some of them, especially my relatives, ask for credit; for them to pick up the shoes first and pay later but I never allow this because it's a business that needs to survive."

He said business was so popular that at times his relatives and friends would drag him out of bed as early as 5am to fix their shoes before they leave for Labasa town. "That's the disadvantage of operating from home," he sighs, gesturing to the humble lean-to home he occupies with his cousins and two older brothers.

"Even at night at about 9pm or 10pm, my relatives and friends still come around home for me to fix their shoes. "Sometimes around the grog bowl, they will come and throw their shoes in and tell me to fix it so after hours, I always tell them, that charges will be higher and they still pay."
His favourite clients are the Roman Catholic nuns and priests from Solevu.

"I am always happy to see the nuns and priests come around and see me and ask about my business because that's when I share my experiences with them and it's just good to be encouraged by them," said Petero.

"At times, after a good conversation with them, I get shy again to ask for the payment so I just say bye and continue with my work but they never forget. "Instead they give me more than the normal charges of $1.50 and $2; I only thank God for bringing me such customers, he smiled.
His fondness for the nuns and priests could possibly run deeper than the interesting conversations they share.

This is because he largely attributes his success to a sermon a European priest delivered that inspired him never to give him. The priest, whose name he could not recall, had preached that dreams could come true if one had the will to do the long, hard slog.

He was a Class Three student of Solevu Primary School at the time he heard those words of encouragement. "The words continued to be in my mind and although I dropped out of school when I was nine, I always told myself that if I have the will to succeed in life, I will succeed," he said.

"Whether it be in farming or fishing, it will happen." Money woes meant he had to help his uncle, Viliame Raikivi, on the farm. Mr Raikivi, who is his mother's brother, practically raised him from birth. It was from him that he learnt his trade.

Mr Raikivi had repaired shoes before retiring to his farm. Today, Petero lives in a household of young bachelors. "We all have our share of buying food," he said. "While I buy from the shop, they provide root crops from the plantation and seafood for our meals."
He is happy with the lifestyle he has toiled to build. While it may be enough for some, it is not for Petero.

He is set on opening a little repair shop at Nabouwalu soon. He has already started saving towards this.

Adapted from Fijitimes Online


A MOTHER'S sacrifice bore fruit yesterday when her eldest daughter graduated with a diploma from the Fiji College of Agriculture.

Elenoa Vosayaco's diploma was special because it was the result of her mother's back-breaking sacrifice and six years of hard living after her father was jailed for his role in the mutiny at the Sukunaivalu Barracks in Labasa in 2000.

As the eldest of six children, Elenoa said she was determined to set a good example for her siblings and to repay her mother for her hard work. "They're all looking up to me, being the eldest, so I have to be a good role model for them,'' said the 21 year old.

Her mother, Ana Vosayaco, 45, said she struggled to make ends meet by selling rootcrops at the Savusavu market to pay for her children's education. "I thank the Lord for this. It has not been easy for me being a single mother for these six years," Mrs Vosayaco said after the graduation.


Adapted from Fijitimes Online