THERE are some things in life that demand your full commitment, sacrifice and patience.
Ask Isaia Roko and he'll tell you how these values have helped him take on the challenges of being a village headman or turaga ni koro.
The 66-year old says his love for his people and vanua has made him proud of his achievements during his 12-year tenure as turaga ni koro for Nubuyanitu Village in the upper range of Navosa.
Nubuyanitu is a three-hour bus ride from Sigatoka Town to Navatumali government station in Keiyasi before taking a 30-kilometre ride by truck or four-wheel-drive during good weather to get to the village.
On not-so-lucky days, people will have to travel by horse or on foot over an Irish-crossing and rugged terrain to get to the village.
From the terrains, you can see Korolevu and Nukuilau overlooking a steep mountain nearby where Matokana village sits.
A few kilometres after Matokana you can find yourself in the province of Serua.
For Roko, the distance of his village from the main town centre holds no barrier for developments having organised several projects when he was headman.
Speaking in Navosa dialect, Roko said at times the work of a turaga ni koro could take him away from his family for long periods of time because he had to travel to Suva or Lautoka to negotiate or meet with non-governmental organisations or government officials for special projects to help in the development of the village community.
Roko said as a headman his role was to be the village representative at district meetings and oversee village developments. He was the vital link of communication at meetings with statutory bodies, government departments and NGOs.
As a turaga ni koro, he conducted or arranged village meetings and became the spokesman of the chief to the outside world.
He said the role was a demanding one because he had to make do with the limited resources and assistance for travelling and accommodation which was about $20 per month.
Roko said when required to attend a meeting in Suva, Sigatoka or Lautoka, he would spend the night at the market police post or marketplace with the vendors before attending the meeting the next day.
His personal sacrifices saw him in government offices every week pushing for assistance and developments in his village.
Despite receiving an education up to Class Eight level, Roko said the support and efforts of his village men during his term contributed to the successful installation of electricity to the village through the Rural Electrification Scheme with the Ministry of Energy contributing $40,000.
He said the village contributed $5000 with local materials and labour.
He said they also had piped water supply installed with government again contributing $20,000 and the village contributed $2500 and labour.
Through the State's self-help program, he said the villagers were able to construct flush toilet systems in the village, a community hall and an 80-metre long Irish-crossing.
Under the capital roads work program, an access road from Nasatogo to the village was constructed, he said.
The father of four said villagers also arranged funding from the Chinese government for the women's projects and seminars in the village.
He said it was vital that every turaga ni koro was looked after by the villagers because the role required full-time commitment.
As a turaga ni koro, Mr Roko says one needs to plan and manage his time well while juggling the demands of the vanua and the family.
In between all these responsibilities, Roko still finds time to manage his farm adding there are times when selling his produce becomes less important than his role as turaga ni koro. Today, Roko says the village runs a school at the community hall for classes 1-8.
Funding from the Prime Minister's Office in collaboration with the Fiji Military Forces engineering unit saw the construction of the new Vatutoko Primary School building.
Since his retirement from the position two years ago, Mr Roko is still called upon by the village committee and chief to help seek the assistance of donors in finishing the community hall kitchen, toilet facilities and the construction of the hall veranda and general painting.
* Rupeni Fonmanu is a volunteer at the Sigatoka Sand Dunes National Park under the National Trust of Fiji.