NEWS

Uto ni Yalo Trust to Revive Rural Economies

The Uto ni Yalo Trust plans to ex­plore opportunities for communi­ties to use the canoes for sea trans­port that doesn’t require expensive diesel fuel for ecotourism, fishing and patrolling community marine reserves.
03 May 2019 17:25
Uto ni Yalo Trust to Revive Rural Economies
A completed traditional sailing boat ready to be used.

The Uto ni Yalo Trust is on a mission to revitalise the ancient traditions of sailing canoes, kick-start efforts to de­carbonise the economy and boost rural economies by the end of the year.

“We’re trying to revive traditional boat building, navigation and sea­faring,” said Uto ni Yalo Trust Vice President Dwain Qalovaki.

“On the other side it ensures that, as a country, we can start decarbon­ising our economy by starting with our families who live in the rural areas and rely on expensive, but low-quality, diesel fuel.”

The Uto ni Yalo Trust plans to ex­plore opportunities for communi­ties to use the canoes for sea trans­port that doesn’t require expensive diesel fuel for ecotourism, fishing and patrolling community marine reserves.

Mr Qalovaki said the Trust’s ef­forts are more cost effective and greener and help these rural com­munities.

“The cost of the Government giv­ing a fibreglass boat and a 40-horse­power outboard engine to the com­munity is the cost of building four of these traditional sailing canoes,” he said.

The trust has written to the Gov­ernment to ask for subsidies for the cost of producing the canoes cheap­er, but Mr Qalovaki said the answer has been no.

This hasn’t stopped them, how­ever. The trust will have completed building 25 canoes by the end of the week and they plan to finish 100 by December.

“This is open to communities from all 14 provinces in our coun­try,” said Mr Qalovaki.

“The only condition is that they send someone, usually a youth, to learn more about the canoes.

“If you’re willing to learn how to make it, how to sail it and how to maintain it in your own commu­nity, we will help build your tradi­tional sailing canoes.

“With this project we want the young people to come forward, to come and learn.”

The canoes, which are six metres in length, can carry cargo and up to four people. They are being built by a traditional boatbuilder from Lau along with other Fijians whose backgrounds range from qualified chefs to furniture makers.

Members of the Uto ni Yalo Trust put the finishing coat on a traditional sailing boat. It is one of 100 they plan to give out to help rural communities.  Photo: Courtesy of Dwain Ah Tong

Members of the Uto ni Yalo Trust put the finishing coat on a traditional sailing boat. It is one of 100 they plan to give out to help rural communities.
Photo: Courtesy of Dwain Ah Tong

Mr Qalovaki says the team invites anyone who is interested to join them in canoe making.

“The knowledge does not just be­long to a few of us; this belongs to every Fijian,” he said.

“We are honouring the commit­ment of people before us that have pushed to try to make this work. We’re not starting this; we’re build­ing on what so many other Fijian people, what so many Pacific Island people, have been pushing for.”

It’s also something that’s been a long time coming, he said.

Although the project to build 100 canoes only started this year, Mr Qalovaki says it’s been part of the trust’s mission for the past decade.

He said they wanted to “introduce traditional sailing canoes back into our communities not as a novelty item, but to demonstrate how the wisdom of our ancestors has a place to play in how we decarbonise our economies”.

“There’s a very real need for the technology that our forefathers practised using wind power to be able to ensure that number one, we don’t rely too much on fossil fuels and number two that we not keep our families in a perpetual cycle of poverty,” Mr Qalovaki said.

The Uto ni Yalo Trust (formerly known as the Fiji Islands Voyaging Society) is dedicated to reviving Fiji’s sustainable sea transporta­tion culture by rejuvenating and sustaining our traditional Fijian canoe building, sailing and naviga­tion skills.

Edited by Epineri Vula

Feedback: jyotip@fijisun.com.fj

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