Having finally set foot on Fiji – I thought I would revert back to my international theme for this update! Even though I had lived and worked in Papua New Guinea (see my earlier blog) and had projects in Asia, I longed for the opportunity to do something in the Pacific Islands. Many years ago, I had to choose between a poultry-based job in Fiji – and one in PNG. I chose PNG but often wondered where life would have taken me and my family had I chosen differently.
My entry to Fiji this time was through a workshop organised by the University of Queensland as part of an ACIAR project (Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research) which looked at extension capacity building needs in the South Pacific. I was a bit of an interloper – not having done the hard yards in the project – just coming in at the end (or what I hope might also be a start!). What was fascinating was meeting a core group of people who really had a heart for extension – and developing skills in ‘extension workers’ and managers around participative processes. [For those who are unfamiliar with the term ‘extension’ – it comes from an agricultural based-role referring to better linking farmers with research relevant to their farms. This has since broadened beyond agriculture and to include more personal can social capacity building!]
But Fiji! At last – standing on the soil – and beaches! I only had a glimpse really – but was not disappointed. I saw a country with mixed development, plenty of potential – good farmland, emerging industries – and a great tourist spot. I also heard more of some of the other Pacific Island Nations and now also hope to visit places such as Vanuatu and Samoa – amongst many more. Maybe the opportunity to engage in a project such as this might provide an opportunity to learn with other like-minded people in these places.
And the tourist side was also great! My wife Rob joined me after the workshop for a taste of the beaches and islands – and we both discovered that we could actually snorkel if we put our minds to it! It helped that the water was so warm and the coral so inviting. And speaking of taste, the Indian food was just superb!
A final comment re Kava – the national drink! I did get to taste it (see the photo) – but an yet to understand why a chalky, brown fluid is so popular! Ah well, maybe you have to drink a few to find out?