Prawns of Lobau

LOBAU villager Sovaia Buliyarana cuts a solitary figure along the highway between Navua and Suva.

The 49-year-old sits silently by the roadside, watching the vehicles as they pass her.

As one draws near, she quietly holds up a plastic bag.

She told The Fiji Times team she was tired to stand because she had trekked more than an hour from the freshwater creek where she caught the prawns.

“I just sit here and hold it up,” she said giving a weary smile.

Sitting behind her and leaning against the power pole was her niece who had accompanied her into the deep forest behind them to catch the prawns. They both looked exhausted.

“We’ve been selling here for the past two hours and we managed to sell seven of the eight bags. We’re just waiting for the last customer,” Ms Buliyarana said.

Each bag of prawns cost $10. The duo had made $70 already. Not bad for a half-a-day’s job, but the two women said it was something they did to bring money in.

“I have four children to feed and the money from this helps a long way,” said Ms Buliyarana.

Dressed in ragged T-shirts, long pants and a sulu (sarong) wrapped around their heads to shield them from the hot sun, the women said they were thankful they made another dollar for the day.

Ms Buliyarana said it was a livelihood that had fed her family and put her children through school.

“Life can be hard but if you have the heart for difficult work, you can achieve things. For us money is everywhere, you just have to stand up and work for it. If you are lazy then you will have nothing to eat.”

As The Fiji Times vehicle slowly turned to leave, a vehicle stopped nearby to buy the last bag of prawns in the weary hands of Ms Buliyarana.

“Taste the prawns of Lobau. It’s the sweetest you’ll ever taste,” she said with a smile.

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