The Fiji Times
Scheme a success
KADAVU landowners are now reaping the harvest of seeds sown by visionary leaders of the past.
Leaders such as the late politician Konisi Yabaki, who influenced landowners to implement pine schemes on their land some 40 plus years ago.
His business acumen are coming to fruition, benefiting a whole generation of people.
In the district of Ono, the villages of Vabea, Waisomo, Naqara, Nabouwalu, Narikoso and Natusara, and the village of Tiliva where Mr Yabaki hails from, are awash with acres of matured pine forest.
Mr Yabaki’s name constantly pops up during conversations when there are discussions regarding pine schemes.
Born in 1941, Mr Yabaki was raised in Nabua during his early years after his parents moved to Viti Levu from Kadavu because of work commitments.
At the age of 15, Mr Yabaki enrolled at Ratu Kadavulevu School in Tailevu from 1956 to 1959, before joining the then Department of Forestry which was merged with the Ministry of Fisheries as a Forest Ranger.
Tiliva village elder Emosi Duikoro, who also served in the Ministry of Forests with his late cousin, said his relative had developed the passion for work in Fiji’s forestry sector at a very young stage of his life.
Mr Yabaki later enrolled in the “night class” offered by the then Derrick Technical Institute so he could sit for his Fiji Junior and New Zealand School Certificate examinations.
The learning centre, which is now the Fiji National University in Samabula, was previously known as the Fiji Institute of Technology.
In his search for enlightenment and education, Mr Yabaki enrolled for his Year 12 studies at the all-girls Adi Cakobau School, making him one of the few men to have studied in the school.
Despite the strange looks he received from male counterparts, Mr Yabaki managed to complete his Year 12 studies with flying colours.
He then attended the Australian National University where he graduated before re-joining the Department of Forestry where he reached the position of conservator of forests.
Mr Duikoro said Mr Yabaki became one of the first Fijian conservators, a position held in very high regard back then.
Mr Yabaki then spent some time as the chief executive officer of the Fiji Pine Commission before venturing into politics with the Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua from 2000 to 2006, where he served as Minister for Forests for sometime.
His career in politics began the previous year when he won the Lomaivuna Namosi Kadavu Open Constituency for the Soqosoqo ni Vakavulewa ni Taukei (SVT) at the 1999 election before being appointed Minister for Tourism and Transport in the interim government that was formed in July 2000 in the wake of the 2000 coup which deposed the elected government of Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry.
In the election held to restore democracy in September 2001, Mr Yabaki won the Kadavu Fijian Communal Constituency for the Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua (SDL), defeating James Ah Koy, who had held the seat for many years, and was subsequently appointed Minister for Forests and Fisheries.
Mr Yabaki’s political career ended after the military coup of 2006.
While paying homage to Mr Yabaki, Naqara villager Joeli Bose said 45 years ago when he was just born, his ancestors had planted pine on 224 hectares of their native land after consulting their kinsman.
At 45 years of age, Mr Bose is soon to be the proud owner of a new single bedroom house built with timber from the pine trees planted by his forefathers.
Mr Bose said they were proud of the dedication and contribution made by their ancestors adding the onus was now on them to replant harvested forests for future generations.
“We are aware that there were a lot of queries raised by villagers when the pine scheme began in the village and we — this generation, only wish that all our ancestors would still be alive to see how we are benefiting from their wise decisions,” he said.
Fiji Pine representative at Naqara Semesa Ducivaki said under the scheme, villagers were not allowed to sell pine logs or have any pine log business dealings until 2020 when the Housing Scheme ended.
Mr Ducivaki said after 2020 when houses were built, villagers would be allowed to harvest pine for commercial purposes.
He revealed that currently a total of 24 homes in the district of Ono were being constructed from pines planted under the scheme.
Turaga na Tuinidau, Tiliva Village chief Ratu Manieta Yabaki, who is the younger brother of the late Konisi Yabaki, said his brother’s contributions into the Ministry of Forests would be his greatest legacy even with his own kinsmen on Kadavu.
Ratu Manieta said his late brother’s hard work was felt in the village as he was one of the first to introduce and plant teak in the village.
“The teak trees he (the late Konisi Yabaki) planted are still standing today in the village after 30 years and I know it is of value if and when we harvest it.”
We are aware that there were a lot of queries raised by villagers when the pine scheme began in the village and we — this generation, only wished that all our ancestors would still be alive to witness how we are benefitting for their wise decisions. – Joeli Bose