The workshop was a partnership between the Government through the Fisheries Department and Ministry for Women and non-government organisation Pacific Blue Foundation.
The five villages in the district of Totoya, namely Tovu, Ketei, Dravuwalu, Udu and Vanuavatu were supposed to send 10 participants each but the organisers did not anticipate the wilingness of the villagers to learn that on the first day of the workshop, about 80 people packed the community hall at Tovu.
The number was more than the caterers had prepared for and left the women preparing the food for the participants a bit in a lurch after the first day but things became organised from then on.
Fisheries officers led by Sunia Waqainabete held classroom courses in the hall.
Other fisheries officers including former Fiji sevens rep Apisai Sesewa took participants out in the field for planting of mangroves and education on native trees and plants and wildlife that need to be preserved for the conservation of the environment.
The participants were taught conservation methods to preserve not only their marine environment but also their wildlife and fauna.
The workshop pointed to development on the island which was an inevitability but they managed to learn to cope with development and at the same time conserve their natural resources.
So often, when development arrives the natural resources are laid to waste and marine life and the ecosystem is killed at the price of development.
The participants were reminded that the killing of turtles was not allowed and anybody caught would be fined heavily.
Pacific Blue Foundation’s Fiji Islands co-ordinator is the Roko Sau, Roko Josefa Cinavilakeba ù the sau ni vanua ko Totoya.
The chief welcomed the workshop and thanked the facilitators from the Fisheries Department.
“I am pleased that the people of Totoya are learning about conservation alongside development.
“What they have learnt will augur well for them in the future.
“The training they received in the workshop will make them prepared and when development comes they will have the knowledge of what to do and cope and at the same time conserve their natural resources on which they will rely for their livelihood.”
The Roko Sau referred to the time when there was an abundance of marine life in waters around Totoya but slowly they had diminished because of over-fishing but now the people were taught how to preserve or conserve their natural resources for their livelihood and future.
They were educated on problems and how they could avoid them.
As Pacific Blue’s Fiji Island co-ordinator, Roko Sau organised government and community relationships through the workshop at Tovu.
Pacific Blue Foundation works for the conservation of marine life and resources, their sustainability and the conservation of cultures and tradition.
As a chief, the Roko Sau wants his people to be prepared for development and how to cope with it by conserving their natural resources at the same time.
He thanked the officers from the Bank of the South Pacific, Isikeli Taoi and Isikeli Rokovui, who were part of the week-long activity at Tovu and Vanuavatu.
The BSP officers opened bank accounts for villagers in Tovu, Dravuwalu and Vanuavatu which included registering their Tax Identification Number (TIN) with FRCA.
“I thank BSP for bringing their service to the doorsteps of the villagers” said Roko Sau.
“They have made banking easier for the men, women and children of Totoya.”
People of Totoya can deposit and withdraw from the post office at Tovu for now until BSP introduces the card system to the island in the near future.
The workshop coincided with International Women’s Day which was celebrated at Tovu.
Tovu was one of four centres in Fiji where the day for women was celebratred; the other centres being Nabouwalu in Bua, Nausori and Lautoka.
The Roko Sau said that now the workshoip was done with and the people of his district had knowledge, the next step would be administration training.
That would require another training workshop and with the success of the resources workshop, he is working toward the administration training part of the education of his people.
The participants who attended were unanimous in that the workshop taught them a lot.
Joji Mate of Vanuavatu and his daughter were among the participants.
He said he got to learn some things he took for granted and now he was better equipped to conserving their natural resources.
The workshop participants were catered for by the village of Tovu at the expense of the Roko Sau and Pacific Blue Foundation.
They had lunch at Tovu but for dinner they went back to their villages except the delegation from Vanuavatu, officers from the Fisheries and Women’s ministry and BSP who were billeted at Tovu.
Boats that came from Udu and Dravuwalu across the bay from Tovu had their benzine tanks refilled every day because they brought and took the participants back and forth.
The participants were presented a certificate of participation by Women’s ministry representative Lice Waqa at the last day of the workshop.
There was meke and merrymaking in the form of fakawela after the workshop.
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