VILLAGERS of Nasau and Nayavu-i-Ra in Nakorotubu, Ra are embracing filamentous seaweed — known locally as lumi in attempts to generate income in an area that is sorely lacking in economic activity.
Turaga ni koro (Nasau Village headman) Jone Tabakaucoro said for a long time the villagers had relied on coconuts and its byproducts to support themselves financially.
However, this could very well become a thing of the past with the onset of the lumi farming initiative, a project brought to life with the assistance of American Peace Corps volunteers and the Department of Fisheries.
The project involves attaching lumi seedlings to 10-metre ropes in the sea with the villagers now in ownership of 150 lines of the cash-generating seaweed.
"The crop is harvested every six weeks and then sold to the Fisheries Department and an Asian middle man who uses the crop for medicinal purposes," Mr Tabakaucoro said.
When The Fiji Times visited the village the first harvest had yet to take place but Mr Tabakaucoro revealed the villagers were sitting on a potential cash cow.
"We had staff from the Business Incubation Centre and Micro Finance who had explained the figures to us and we should be able to get $10,000 from the first harvest since we haven't harvested the plants in over two months.
"We aim to harvest every six weeks to ensure sustainability and every Saturday of the week we will transport seedlings to a further 30 lines," he said.
He explained that once the lumi was harvested- they aimed for each plant to weigh two kilograms and sell them for $2 per kilogram.
He said the two villages had formed a business arm named Vatu-KI-Lau to manage the lumi farms and look into further development in the villages.
Mr Tabakaucoro said the villagers would not sit on their laurels with the money brought in from the lumi farms, looking instead to spend this newfound money source on establishing honey farms.
This he said was a feat of sorts for the villagers who in the past sold coconuts for as little $1 per dozen and traditional broom — sasa at as low as $2.