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3 times a village head

Matilda Simmons
Tuesday, February 27, 2018

A headman's role in the village encompasses many aspects of traditional life.

Known in the i-Taukei language as the turaga ni koro, the particular person is appointed by village elders to act as the administrator or mayor of the village. He plays a key role in the modern Fijian government structure and is paid an allowance.

For Tomasi Moli, the headman of Naividamu Village in Macuata, Vanua Levu, it is a role he has revelled in and for which he has a passion for in terms of developing his village.

The Naividamu villager has been re-elected three times to this role since 2007.

As he talked about his role, it's evident he takes deep interest in the affairs of villagers.

"I have been the village headman since 2007 until 2012. There were three more headmen then due to certain circumstances, I was chosen again to take up duties in 2014 until today.

"In just our recent meeting this year, I have been chosen to lead again for another three years," he said with a smile.

The village is located along the coastline of Macuata. It is named after the Tahitian chestnut, ivi damu, because of the abundant growth of this tree around the village.

It is home to one of the oldest school along Macuata-i-Wai having been built in 1939.

"The school has educated many of our people who have gone on to build a successful life," he said.

"We have many young people who are degree holders including people working in many professions around the country. Most of them come back and build their homes and contribute back to the community.

"We just place much importance on church and education. Our elders have always said education is the door to lifting you out of poverty and they've always maintained that our young people go on to pursue tertiary studies.

"The support system is very strong.

"Because we have to move with the times, it's a modern world with the increase of technology and if we don't arm our people with education, then we'll be lost," Tomasi said.

Their forward thinking has seen the village open to many NGOs that arrive on their shores. These include Red Cross, WWF, and Habitat for Homes Fiji which carried out many projects in the village.

The homes are well kept in the neatly laid-out village.

Tomasi shares their only challenge is getting electricity for the village. Because of its isolated location, the village relies on solar power.

"We have an evacuation plan in case of natural disasters. Red Cross has pledged to provide a big hall to serve as an evacuation centre.

"We also place much importance on our marine protected area (MPA)," he said. "This coastline is well known for fishing and recently we lost two of our young men to the bends or decompression sickness. Since then we've banned the use of scuba gear and the harvesting of beche-de-mer in our MPAs."

The main sources of income for villagers are kava, copra, fishing and sandalwood.

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