The Fiji Times
Harvesting kai is no easy feat
FIJI has been experiencing rain, freezing winds, and cold temperatures in the past few months. For those that love the company of the cold, the past months have been a delight especially when you can use those lovely thick blankets to stay warm in bed for longer hours.
However, those that detest Fiji's version of winter simply cannot wait for the summer season to start.
This is also true for Fijians that love kai or freshwater mussels, especially the ones from the famous Rewa River in Nausori.
Though kai or fare in abundance at the Nausori and Suva markets during this wet season, its meat isn't as plump and full as it's supposed to be.
Alinieta Vuetivavalagi one of the vendors at the Kasavu roadside market shared.
"In this cold weather, the flesh of the mussels shrinks because of the low temperature of the water. However, when it becomes warmer, its flesh will be plumpy and good to eat.
"But despite the cold, people still buy it. We have many that buy it every week but there are those that will only buy it during the warmer periods of the year," she says.
The women that harvest the kai are the ones that are affected the most as they bite the cold while struggling to put food on the table with the possibility of a lasting effect.
"Most women suffer from chronic back pains as a result of being in the cold waters for long periods of time.
"We tie a cloth to our back to carry the mussels that we harvest which strains our backs immensely.
"Our knees are also affected from carrying the heavy load and from being exposed to the cold for long hours," she said.
Despite not being a native of Kasavu, she has her methods when it comes to working around the cold.
The mother of three said that despite the reality of gathering fresh water mussels, it's the best way to earn especially for the women of Kasavu. "I've been harvesting fresh water mussels for nine years now ever since I got married to my husband who is from Kasavu.
"I did not join the mussels trade straight after settling. After learning the tricks of the trade from the other women in the village for a few years, I then decided to join them in gathering mussels.
"I saw that for the women here, it was the easiest way to earn money.
"My husband works for Hardwood and what I do is simply supplement what he already earns.
"There are many responsibilities that we have when we live in the village. You have an obligation to the village, the church and to your extended and immediate families.
"I'm happy that I can help my husband fulfill our roles in our family and community."
Apart from dealing with the cold, Alinieta says they also want a better location for their small market.
Since their re-location, there haven't been many customers that come to them because they didn't know where to locate these women.
Though customers know where the women of Kasavu are based, Alinieta says they still prefer to be based on the main highway where there are a lot of customers.
"There are many women that do this work. Especially when we were selling on the main road. Busses and cars would stop and buy sacks of mussels.
"When we shifted away because of the landslide, business hasn't picked up. Now, people know where we are selling, and they come directly to us to buy.
"We would love to sell at the highway again. We are missing out on a lot of customers. I hope that issue can be fixed".
PACIFIC Market Day is an event that the public and students at the University of the South Pacific look forward to.
People come to buy clothes, jewelry, electronic items, food and many more items that are sold at the bus bay area of the Laucala Campus is Suva.
However, according to the Activities Coordinator for Campus life Roreen Dayal, the Market Day is more than just the food and the items it sells.
It's about community and providing a platform for vendors and students.
"We have vendors from different backgrounds that are a part of the four-day event. A good number of vendors are women and elders.
"The event gives them an opportunity to come and connect with people especially when they meet students and people that sell.
"Market day also gives something for them to look forward too as well as empowering our women and elders to earn for themselves," she says.
While vendors outside campus make up most of the people that sell at the event, students are also given opportunities to earn money.
"The students don't pay anything when they set up their stalls. Pacific market Day offers them the unique opportunity to gain entrepreneurial skills and a means to help with their school fees.
"Student vendors tell us that from what they earn, they are also able to help their families.
"While we understand that they are students, we allow family members or friends to help out while they go for classes."
Ms Dayal says that they welcome every kind of product and goods to be sold at the Laucala campus with restrictions on items like tobacco and alcohol needing special permits to be sold.
The market day started over five years ago and has since grown and popularity on the campus and in the City of Suva.
The activities coordinator encourages the public to visit the USP Laucala Campus during the the market day every month and invites vendors and students to register to be a part of it.
"The Pacific Market Day began in 2014. There was a need to create a holistic environment for the university.
"It is not a festival, but the event is also creative, fun and a place to unwind for students and the public.
"When it first started, there was a smaller group of vendors but now we have almost 60 vendors including the students.
"Apply online to reserve a spot and join the Pacific Market Day family."