The Tough Trek: Nakida’s Youth Ascend
For one to understand why this is so, you must first know its geographical location. Nakida Village is located in the interior of Viti Levu where the border of the three provinces - Tailevu, Naitasiri and Ra - meet
Optimism and a can-do attitude is something that keep youths of Nakida in the tikina of Nagonenicolo in Naitasiri active.
Na gone ni colo in English translates to ‘Children of the Highlands’ and youths of Nakida embody this in spirit as their collective efforts command respect and garners admiration for their commitment and determination. For one to understand why this is so, you must first know its geographical location. Nakida Village is located in the interior of Viti Levu where the border of the three provinces — Tailevu, Naitasiri and Ra — meet.
Nakida village was settled in 1965 as the then elders sought to utilise their vacant land and, more importantly, because differences had arisen within the village of Waibalavu. It was where they had previously settled - a six hour trip by bilibili (bamboo raft) between the previous and current sites. Though inaccessible by road, the youths of this quaint village are determined to make the best of life and exemplify the age-old adage of ‘When life gives you lemons, make lemonade’. The trek to Nakida is challenging to say the least. One has to scale rugged and tough terrain, hiking for five hours in heavy underfoot conditions or riding on horseback for three hours. With yaqona as their main source of income, villagers have to hike through the thick forest before hitching a ride along the Kings Highway to sell their produce at the Rakiraki market. As Nakida Youth Club president, Laisenia Senokonoko, puts it in
iTaukei, “E sa ka ga ni vosota” (It’s all about resilience). “The greatest, biggest challenge there is infrastructure as our village is inaccessible by road and the only means of transport for us is either by horse, foot or to travel downstream by boat and bamboo raft,” Mr Senokonoko said. “Our harvesting schedule includes one whole day of uprooting green yaqona plants and another whole day to transport our harvest to the roadside to sell usually leaving the village at around 5am,” he said. With the revenue collected from their yaqona sales, the youth club has managed to buy a three-tonne carrier to help generate added income for their coffers. They have high hopes to operate as a co-operative venture in five years and are focusing on yaqona sales. “Our youths continue to plant yaqona every month as it is our main source of income because we hope to renovate our Church and construct the catechists’ house as well and if all things go according to plan, we also hope to get piped water pumped straight to the village as part of our community project,” he said. “We have set up a housing project in the village whereby all youths must have their own houses as we cut and rip our own timber.
“This was all possible through assistance from the Ministry of Youth and Sports, through a donated chainsaw and an organised sawing workshop facilitated by Ministry of Forestry officials. “Almost every month, 30 pieces of corrugated iron are transported up to the village as whoever can afford to buy them is encouraged to do so.” According to Mr Senokonoko, the transportation of the material is an arduous exercise in itself as it takes 4 days in total for the corrugated iron to reach their village. “The material is bought from Suva and usually that takes a quarter of a day’s travel up to Namaridrika where the materials are dropped off.
“The rest of the day is usually spent building bamboo rafts to carry the roofing materials upstream, as one raft can hold only 10 pieces and though all youths participate in this task, it takes one whole day from Namaridrika to reach Wairuarua Village and another two days from Wairuarua to Nakida. “This is the only way for us because what other options do we have? We choose to brave the elements because this is the only way we can achieve anything and develop our community,” Mr Senokonoko said.
With the numerous difficulties and challenges faced by this community, including a lack of proper infrastructure, fatigued horses due to the strenuous arduous trek to and from the village and Tropical Cyclone Winston dealing a major blow by devastating their homes and farms, the youth of Nakida remain optimistic of their future in the hope of an easier life.
“After Winston passed, we only had two houses standing in the entire village and our crops and farms were severely damaged. Some of our youth lost hope and were broken as their main source of income was damaged and we are trying to get these youth back to the village to help us rebuild, but we remain positive of whatever lies ahead for us,” said Mr Senokonoko. “We will continue doing what we have been doing because there is no room for complacency now; we do this for our children and their children because we are moving in one direction, up.” It is no wonder then that with that right mental attitude accompanied by commendable reporting and sound management of their projects, Nakida youth club received the best youth club award for the Central Division during the 2015 National Youth and Sports Conference as well as recognition during the Reserve Bank of Fiji 2015 National Microfinance Awards. Despite their hardships, Mr Senokonoko’s advice to youths in
the country is simple, “Veilomani vakaukauwa, masu ka lotu vakaukauwa, ka cakacaka vata ka vakaukauwa.” (Care for each other earnestly, praise and worship the Lord fervently and work hard together).
As he puts it: “Success is guaranteed with commitment and determination,” which is exactly what keeps Nakida youth going.”
Minister for Youth and Sports Laisenia Tuitubou (wearing sun glasses in middle), with the youths of Nakida in the tikina of Nagonenicolo in Naitasiri.
Laisenia Senokonoko (on horseback) leading a visiting delegation on their way to Nakida.
Youth officer Central Pauliasi Nasegai handing over a chainsaw to the youths of Nakida.