WHEN he arrived in Fiji more than a year ago US Peace Corps volunteer, Tom Arnold had his work cut out for him. He came to the conclusion that Nakorotubu District in Ra was one of poorest economically and that education was lacking.
Mr Arnold decided to focus on education, health work but in particular non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Mr Arnold said their first challenge was income. "This is what the villagers wanted," he said. "This would also help me in the fight against NCDs, which is my primary objective with the Peace Corps."
With their goals in line, the Nayavuira and Nasau villages joined efforts together with the Fisheries Department in July and came up up a new idea to farm lumi (seaweed). He said there was a huge demand for lumi and the fisheries department would help set up a market.
Lumi is a traditional Fijian delicacy and also used in the production of cosmetics, soap, shampoo among other products. "The buzz around Nakorotubu is that everyone is excited about it," Mr Arnold said. "It's a revolutionary as far as the Peace Corps service goes." Four weeks after planting the lumi, the seedlings have grown about six times its original size.
In mid-July, Mr Arnold said the villagers' first harvest would be in a month's time. "The plan is to expand the farm so by the time we harvest we will be getting a few thousand dollars," he said. And that's exactly what happened last Saturday.
Last Saturday, the villagers harvested their first yield, which was estimated to rake in $10,000. Mr Arnold said 70 lines with 20 seedlings were each placed in the sea. He said lumi would be a huge income earner after the harvest with one kilogram costing $2.
When he's not busy assisting the elder folks, Mr Arnold teaches the children how to surf and play water polo.