"That was also the first time I ever fly. Oh, it was a bad flight. I went from Nadi to Suva in a small, very small, plane. That night was all clouds, rain, and fog. And you know in a little plane you can see everything the pilot is doing. Well, 1 looked in the cockpit and saw him twiddling knobs and things, and then I look through his window and I realize he can't see anything out there. And I said to myself, 'We die tonight for sure.' "
Ratu Lemeki took us on a walk to the new waters of the Monasavu dam,which now cover the area that Derek, Aseri, and several Nadrau helpers had explored for archaeological remains. It took more than an hour to reach the plateau where the road ran, as Ratu Lemeki, dressed in red shirt, khaki trousers, and army boots, stopped to introduce us to everyone met on the way. One man accompanied by a pack of dogs was about to go hunting inthe forest for wild pig; others were engaged in the heavy task of clearing hillside fields for dalo, yams, cassava, and fruit trees.
Fijian agriculture follows the time-honoured slash-and-burn system. The bush, except for valued trees, is cut from a small area and burned when dry.The soil is then turned over with digging sticks or spades, and planted in crops for two or three seasons. Then it is abandoned to the bush for a fallow period ofanything between seven and thirty years, depending on fertility.
These "plantations"-as Fiji people call their gardens no matter how small slowly migrate across the landscape, leaving a tangle of secondary growth in their wake. Thus only a small area produces at anyone time; but the wisdom of these methods has been proved by the disastrous effects of Western intensive farming in jungles such as the Amazon. The luxuriance of a tropical forest resides iri its trees, not in the soil.
Top photo courtesy of Phillip C at http://www.flickr.com/photos/flissphil/5152796/sizes/m/in/photostream/
Middle photo of Monasavu Dam courtesy of http://energyforall.blogspot.com/
Bottom shot Photo courtesy Joel and Kathryn Sperry
Historian, novelist, and essayist Ronald Wright is the award-winning author of nine books of nonfiction and fiction published in 16 languages and more than 50 countries. Much of his work explores the relationships between past and present, peoples and power, other cultures and our own. On Fiji Islands, was published in 1983 to critical acclaim. He has graciously allowed Fijiguide.com to serialize his work for your enjoyment. We welcome your comments. (For more information visit http://www.randomhouse.ca/newface/wright.php)