On Tuesday 10 November, IUCN Oceania Regional Office successfully organised a community visit trip to a kai fishery project site in Muana Village in Rewa, led by the Regional Program Coordinator, Mason Smith. The community visit consisted of a small delegation from the French Embassy led by the Head of Culture, Education and Science section, Emmanuelle Charrier as well as officials from the Rewa Provincial Office.
In accepting the team’s sevusevu, Atunaisa Valevou the Liuliu ni Yavusa or head of the Nakorolevu clan expressed his sincere gratitude to IUCN and the French Government for the implementation of the kai fishery project in his village of Muana. He stated that the successful scientific experiments that have been carried out so far have greatly benefitted his villagers in ensuring they were fishing healthy kai.
Kai, a freshwater clam is found in all major river systems in Fiji and is the basis of the largest freshwater fishery in the country and one of the top three in the Pacific. The village of Muana like any other community along the Rewa River depend on the freshwater and mangrove fisheries for their livelihoods and for the women of Muana village, kai fishery has been a major source of revenue that has put their children through school and food on the table.
Since its implementation in May 2013, IUCN and other partner organisations including the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and the Institute of Applied Sciences (IAS) at the University of the South Pacific (USP) have been conducting research to assess the level of bacterial build up in kai from the project site and also looking at ways the build-up can be reduced. The kai fishery project has, since inception, greatly helped in increasing the economic benefits for communities.
Titiana Valevou, 59 years old of Muana Village has been free-diving for kai for the past 23 years. “The only day I do not go out collecting kai is when there is bad weather and on Sundays because I have to go to church” she said. In a day, Titiana collects a maximum catch that could fill one to one and a half 50kg bag which she then goes and sell at the roadside. Being selected as community champion for the kai project, Titiana has been immensely grateful to IUCN and the French Embassy for allowing her to travel to New Caledonia to be part of the technical knowledge exchange and for the numerous capacity building workshops she was chosen to participate in. “My involvement with the kai project has been a great learning experience. It has broadened my knowledge in terms of ways to better sell my product (kai) and understanding the needs of local consumers when it comes to the consumption of kai”, Titiana continued.
The underlying issue is to add value to kai so that it enhances consumer confidence and attracts investment. With the kai fishery project nearing its completion, discussions were pursued on remaining project activities and most importantly explore options as part of its exit strategy.
The visit ended with Titiana demonstrating the collection of kai in a nearby segment of the large Rewa River.
The kai fishery project is being funded by the French Pacific Fund and will end in December 2015.
For more information, contact Dr. Milika Sobey, Water & Wetlands Programme Coordinator at [email protected]