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The Marines of Dravuwalu

Sikeli Qounadovu
Sunday, May 14, 2017

LONG before money came into the picture, our forefathers survived not only through battles but more importantly through a communal way of living.

It was a way of living where everyone looked out for one another, helped one another and took care of each other.

In this day and age not many are living this way of life because of many reasons.

It was really encouraging and inspirational that a group of young men in one of the villages on Kadavu is practising this way of living again.

They look after each other. That's their motto. This is their story!

Dravuwalu Village is accessible via a truck ride from the Vunisea jetty to Naluvea, and then a 30-minute boat ride to the village. Naluvea is the main access point to villages in the district of Naceva.

When a team from this newspaper visited the village, they were informed that the "Marines" had not returned to the village as they were still camping in the forest.

The question was whether it was the US Marine Corps they were talking about. If it was indeed the corps, what were they doing on the island, because there was never any news about their arrival. Maybe they were part of a covert training exercise to prepare soldiers for tours in the jungles of the Democratic Republic of Congo, or Kenya.

Wrong on both accounts. It was not the US Marines they were talking about. The "Marines" were 10 young farmers of Dravuwalu whose ages ranged from 20 to 40 years old.

They had formed a small working group known as the "Marines". It is a working group that has mapped out a five to 10-year progression plan.

Laced mainly with school dropouts who have returned to the village, these young farmers were not able to find a successful pathway during their education because of various reasons, but since leaving school they have turned to their farms to map a way out of poverty.

Some of them already have families and houses but there is still more they want to achieve and by joining forces with the single ones, they believe they can achieve their goals as well as help the young ones become successful.

According to Epineri Dakuitoga, one of the farmers, the increase in price of yaqona was one of the reasons they agreed to have this concerted effort.

"We usually go up and camp in our farm houses in the forest for a week to two weeks before returning to the village.

"In one day, there is a set program of whose farms we will be working on. This will include clearing, weeding, ploughing and planting. It depends on the owner of the farm what he wants done on his farm.

"One hour or two hours on one farm is like a week's work done," he said.

The group mainly plant yaqona, dalo and tavioka.

"The plan is in the next five to 10 years all of us will have our own houses in the village, a property in one of the main urban centres, maybe a vehicle and fibreglass boat.

"We also have an investment plan that we hope will benefit our family and our village," he said.

Like it, is often said, a journey of a thousand miles which begins with a single step.

For the Marines of Dravuwalu, legends are born after a dream, and their dream is to be one of the most successful group of farmers on Kadavu.

"Before we had our group, we already had our farms but we were concentrating on subsistence farming but now we want to go commercial, and make a name for ourselves.

"Other farmers on Kadavu and around the country have managed to do that, so we are hoping to emulate their success," added another farmer, Ilikimi Rakaso.

During their working time, there are often breaks to catch a breather or some water.

Every day one to two people are responsible for preparing their meals, and this rotates on a daily basis.

If it is a one-week camp they will take with them 2kg dhal, salt, sugar and five to 10 items of canned foodstuff.

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