25th May – Day 4
This morning we met with Marika Tuiwawa, Alivereti Naikatini and Sarah Pene, our collaborators from USP. After we all introduced ourselves we headed off to the Cakaudrove Provincial Office to meet the Conservation Officer. We had an informal meeting to introduce the project and explained the nature of the fieldwork we would be carrying out in Fiji. We were soon on our way to the first site based in Natua. After driving through the spectacular views provided by the wet rainforest we managed to pin point the same logging track Jack Wolfe travelled to reach his site in Natua some 25 years ago. Unfortunately there has been much deforestation in the area over the last 15 years. The logging was carried out to support the education of village children, sending them to university in Suva. However there are still areas of forest which are ideal for our fieldwork.
After identifying the site at Natua, we travelled to the village which owns the land where we will be carrying out of fieldwork. Here we met with the village major, Ben, who invited us to a sevusevu ceremony. During the sevusevu we presented the village mayor with a gift of Kava root, also known as yaqona. Kava roots are from the pepper tree (Piper methysticum). During the sevusevu we all sat in a circle on woven mats and the entire ceremony was given in Fijian. This ceremony represented our welcoming into the village and we are now able to conduct our fieldwork with the full support of the local community.
We then travelled to the Narailagi village which is situated on the Sequaqa site. Again we were invited to attend the sevusevu where we were welcomed into the village major’s home. Again we presented him with a gift of kava root. During this sevusevu, some ground kava root was mixed with water in a large, carved, wooden bowl. This is known as the tanoa. We each took (many) turns drinking kava and the ceremony lasted for about an hour. Although we were told by Sarah that local people often spend many hours drinking kava before the full effects are felt. At the end of the day we drove back to Savusavu feeling quite relaxed 🙂
Sevusevu ceremony at Narailagi