THE Melanesian community in Fiji has started preparing for their annual general meeting later this year.
Known as the Fiji Melanesia Development Community Association, it has the membership of descendants of mostly people from the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu who were brought to Fiji during the blackbirding era.
The first group of blackbirders arrived in Fiji from the Solomon Islands and New Hebrides (now Vanuatu) in 1865, with others following until the end of the labour trade in the early 1900s.
Association president Rupeni Oli said some of the executives met at the weekend and decided that their AGM be held for two days in Caubati, Nasinu from November 29.
"We will start off with a refresher program where women, youths and all settlement heads will be briefed on the processes as some of us tend to deliberately ignore projects," Mr Oli said.
"Our association comprises the descendants of people from the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and PNG.
"The projects in our settlements are funded by the government."
Mr Oli said since he became the association's president in 2006, he had moved the focus from small projects to economic activities.
He also said education, especially getting scholarships, was a problem for children living in settlements of the descendants of fellow Melanesians.
"We believe that the only way we can walk away from the vicious cycle of poverty and life in the settlements is through education.
"On the other hand, we got our own role to play too to encourage our people.
"We appreciate being called Fijians but we have to maintain our ethnic identity also."