Island News

The fish ponds of Driti

Written By : Sun Fiji Newsroom. Nine kilometers from a turn off near Bua Central College in Bua Vanua Levu is the village of Driti in the Tikina of Dama.
30 Aug 2008 12:00

Written By : Sun Fiji Newsroom. Nine kilometers from a turn off near Bua Central College in Bua Vanua Levu is the village of Driti in the Tikina of Dama.
A village with 24 households, Driti sits on the Seatura River plains and at its backdrop is the imposing Mount Seatura or Delai Seatura.
Renowned for its homeliness and its happy villagers, Driti over the years have established itself as one of the pioneers of aquaculture fisheries in the Northern Division.
Driti have in its possession five fish ponds that have been a source of income and most all protein that villagers desperately lacked in their daily diet.
The result of a study carried out two decades ago; the fish ponds were primarily constructed to supplement the protein needs of the villagers.
Driti with its location in the midlands of Bua lack the resources to fully compliment its villagers with protein even though the river adjacent to it is abundant with prawns.
Established in 1984, the ponds were dug manually by the men folks of the village as a village project under the Rural Aquaculture Programme of the Fisheries Department and in partnership with the Peace Corp Volunteer Programme.
But alas the villagers soon lost inspiration in the maintenance of the ponds and the project became non-operational some years later.
But Driti Village while out of sight was not at all out of mind.
In 2002 after a visitation by Fisheries Officers in the Northern Division, the project was reactivated and its operation was handed over to the women of the village.
Now officially known as the Seatura Women’s Club Aquaculture project, the ponds have once again created wealth for the women and continued to provide much needed protein for the villagers of this modest village at the foot of the Seatura mountain range.
Led by 49 year old Narieta Leba, the group has diversified and has established other sources of income to earn them cash and help them fulfill their long term goals.
Leba ironically is from Nasolo Village on the other side of the mountain but her marriage to this village qualified her to become head.
A natural born leader and a hard worker, Leba’s leadership has seen the women’s project grew from strength to strength.
“Our unity was the driving factor behind our success and this has shown in the support that we have been getting from the various organizations that have been to Driti to assist us with our venture,” she said.
Speaking in the Buan dialect and with the fluent explanation of an artist and his paintbrush, Leba as she is commonly known in Driti enlightened the function of the group.
“We actually renovated the two ponds that were constructed in 1984 and with the assistance of the Fisheries Officers began to repopulate the ponds,” she said. “The women’s group was also registered and took over the fish ponds.”
Pressing on, Leba said that the women struggled at first and after three years became experts in this field of aquaculture.
Learning the trade and rotating the work amongst the women, it became evident that the venture with their perseverance was going to be a success.
But the support of the men folk in the village was commended by Leba saying that “without the men of Driti, the project itself wouldn’t have been what it is today.”
Fitting the description of a community project the venture was quickly recognized and assistance from various non government organizations poured in.
With the assistance of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community [SPC] the women added three more ponds to the existing two that were manually dug in 1984 only this time the ponds were dug with an excavator.
“We are thankful that our efforts were assisted by these organizations, with USP Marine Studies we were able to improve greatly on the water quality and the mortality rate of the fishes,” she said.
Nonetheless the women of Driti have witnessed the importance of working in partnership with government and other non government organizations.
“Our association with NGO’s and government departments was quite helpful and it has taught us a lot of things that many would have taken for granted,” says Leba.
“To raise fish in a pond is a hard task and it requires dedication and the commitment of the members to make it a success and to generate supplementary income that will ensure the economic stability of the women and their families.”
Leba adds that the project is fulfilling its aim and is improving the nutrition of the villager and the surrounding communities of Senilagi and the neighboring village, Nagadoa.
However she adds that there is always a reduction in fish count during harvest which was mainly due to herons and wild ducks that visited the ponds at night.
A harvest can fetch the group 2 metric tonnes of Tilapia and this is sold to villagers and the surrounding communities.
With the assistance of the Ministry of Women the group was furnished with fencing materials, a building for storing feeds and that much needed fencing materials to keep out the wild fauna.
“The Womens Interest Officer from Labasa also trained us in bookkeeping and the administration of a group and the management of income derived from our project,” adds Leba.
With passion and adoration the women rater than purchasing their Tilapia brood from Naduruloulou Research Station in Viti Levu decided to established their own nursery and repopulate their own ponds.
“We saw that this really saved us costs and the mortality rate have improved as the fish no longer have to travel a long distance to get to Driti.”
During a recent visit to the village, Minister for Primary Industries, Mr. Joketani Cokanasiga said that the project by the women of Driti was impressive and a testament to the power of women.
Commending their efforts Mr. Cokanasiga said that the women have shown that a single project can help improve living standards in villages and rural areas and also provide employment opportunities.
“This project if introduced to more women’s group in the rural areas can achieve what it has done for Driti and I hope that the initiative will be introduced around the country especially in rural areas with the assistance of the Fisheries Department and the Ministry of Women,” he said.
The village through the sales of the tilapia from the women’s fish ponds has contributed to the installation of solar panels to harness power from the sun and this also made possible the operation of a solar powered refrigerator that the women uses to store frozen goods and ice block for extra income.
“The Department of Energy assisted us out with the solar energy and this helped immensely as the children were able to study under bright lights at night and the refrigerator enabled us to sell ice blocks to children for extra income,” said Leba.
The women have also diversified to beekeeping and their honey is sold at $ 5.00 per bottle.
“An interesting development is our introduction to the world of investment and for us being in a village isolated from the urban areas, this initiative was completely new and something that took time to sink in and embraced as a way to ensure that future generation of Driti will be able to have proper education.”
Part of the income generated from the women’s venture is invested with the Unit Trust of Fiji and two major commercial banks.
For Leba and the Seatura Women’s Group, Tilapia is the answer to their financial woes and the future of the new generation of Driti Village.
“Survival is the key in this competitive world and to become successful and be an example to others the initiative must come from you and this project is a challenge to every woman in the rural areas of our country for more proactive effort.”

By Joe Uluilakeba
Ministry of Primary Industries

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