My recent Fijian travels may not have seen me sitting with a cup of coffee enjoying the tropical views, but rather found me indulging in another love, horticulture or rather a blending of the two…Coffee growing.
My current line of interest after working in Fiji for so long has taken me to Navala village. I am currently running trials to set up Fiji’s first commercially grown coffee plantation. The plantation will grow Arabica coffee which suits the regions climate. The goal is that this plantation will not only grow great coffee, but also assist the village. It will be a business run by the village for the village. The beans once ready will be harvested by the women of the village and it will be a woman based project. The Women Entrepreneurs Business Council are a great advocate for the women of Fiji, and are instrumental in helping the women of Fiji set up their own businesses by helping with support and training.
Navala can take your breath away with its imposing green hills and ridges, surrounding the traditional thatched houses amongst all the green. Navala is located on one of the highest points in Fiji. When I arrive at Navala the weather is humid and I am told that the night temperatures here can get down to 9⁰ c, if you ask a villager how cold that is, they will tell you that it is about two blankets worth.
I discovered that Navala is not just a village out of time, but it has an interesting history. There are around 800 people in the village. A large portion of the locals are Catholic, and as such the village has been designed on the cross. The Bures have been built along the arm of the cross with the head of the village at the top of the cross and the burial grown is located at the lower end. They are one of the largest land owners in Fiji with around 5000 hectares. The soil of the area appears to be a mixture of red volcanic and black basalt. Currently growing in the area are pawpaw’s and guavas, also away from the village within the forest there is Kava growing.
The villagers grow their own thatching for their Bures nearby as the roofs have to be regularly replaced and repaired. The decision was made to keep the village traditional, and in doing so they are now the last traditional village in Fiji.