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Nature Pacific’s Fiji Cyclone Recovery - The Rebuild Begins...

THE REBUILDING BEGINS…  Your assistance made such a difference

As many of you already know it has been a very trying and difficult time back in Fiji for not only our family and friends working on our organic coconut farm on Taveuni but throughout all of Fiji.

Nature Pacific’s director, Ken Sigrah spend two weeks on the ground arriving only days after the disaster at one of the worse hit regions on South Taveuni. 

The shock on everyone’s face as he walked through the mud at the main gate of the farm, Ken had hiked over the last 10klms on foot with a heavy backpack because the main road had been washed away by the storm surge.  No one could believe he could turn up there all the way from Australia ready to offer support.

Over the next two weeks Ken worked tirelessly with the farm management and staff and other concerned community groups back in Australia in assessing what was most needed in the immediate and surrounding villages.  Here are some of Ken’s heartfelt observation,

“It is one of worst experiences I’ve seen where families and especially children were left with nothing but broken homes, flattened school buildings and massive destruction to farms and their livelihood. As I write this post I know that the worst is yet to come when they will have no more root crops for food in fact it will take another 3 months before any crops like cassava or dalo can mature and are edible again.”

Ken and the Banabans on nearby Rabi are no strangers to the devastating impact of cyclones with the island nearly wiped out by Cyclone Ami in 2003 and Cyclone Tomas in 2012 and yet during one of the worse cyclones in history Rabi unbelievably remained virtually unscathed. Rabi is one of the poorest communities in Fiji and yet in such a time of need they put together immediate food aid for us.

A very special thank you has to go to our eldest Banaban daughter, Ioanna Rabua and family on Rabi who not only assisted her father by gathering immediate food crops but organized the gathering of much needed dry clothing and bedding. She organized the charter of a small boat to travel the 22 km across very angry seas to drop off the aid on the beach out the front of the farm.

By the second week Ken soon realized that the Taveuni South Primary and Secondary schools also needed immediate help. A second load of bulk food supplies was bought over from Rabi Island and with the funds raised from donors back in Australia he again purchased as much bulk food as he could. He also spent a day sourcing school stationery and back packs to provide the children with a fresh start to return to school the following week. Again immediate food ration packs were made up together with school packs and distributed on the Friday.  All the bulk food was put into storage to assist over the coming days and weeks ahead.  As Ken stated,

“For our people farm crops are everything, they depend on them to not only put food on the table but also crops to earn money for school fees, clothing etc, etc, so for me to see the children lining up to collect their school packs and parents to pick their ration of food and clothing that we donated melts my heart. The last thing that I told them before I left was that, life is not easy and in this kind of situation UNITY is the key for survival. So for us who are more fortunate wherever you are and feel like uniting to help please do so.“

On Ken’s last day on the farm there was unexpected visitors that really brought mores smiles to everyone’s face… the Australian Army landed via helicopter and immediately set up a communications base on the farm to coordinate aid throughout the southern Taveuni region.

Ken had a good chat with the Australian Army guys before he delivered the final aid of school accessories to Taveuni South primary and secondary school. I know Ken was so busy during his stay on the island that the impact of what he experienced did not hit him until he arrived back in Nadi for his return trip home. I think the most important message and words he carried back home were that people told him they felt so lost and broken hearted after the cyclone. One lovely village nurse had died after leaving the farm when everyone had urged her to stay put… her death had impacted heavily on them all when in the height of the storm they heard her cry out and they were unable to help.

As people stated we could not believe Ken had travelled all the way from Australia to help us. We knew then how much people in Australia cared for us and as Ken said to see the Australian Army fly in on the last day only added to this ongoing support.

For all those who have been asking how this devastation will impact on Nature Pacific and supply of your favorite Banaban Organic Virgin Coconut Oil there is some very encouraging news to report.

During the dreaded Pacific cyclone season we always stocked our warehouse to full capacity here in Australia as part of our normal contingency plans. At the time of the disaster Nature Pacific’s warehouse had over 3 months of supply in stock and two full containers on the water.

With the hard work and dedication of Gary Tarte and his amazing team they were able to make immediate repairs to the plant roofing and get if working again within four days. The new plant which was just 6 months off completion and the company’s new offices were totally undamaged. Eleven staff houses were destroyed and all the family’s homes lost their roofs.  Out of the 800,000 coconut trees it was found that the older trees withstood the onslaught while some of the younger trees were uprooted so replanting will be required. The plant also provides essential steam generated electricity and has been running at full speed 24 hours a day to process as much of the fallen coconuts as possible for the immediate future and they have also been assisting local village farmers in drying out their kava to prevent it from rotting in the ground. This crop is the villagers main source of income and a big thank you to Gary and his team for assisting those so in need.

Over the past twelve months, due to the major expansion of the new processing plant which was planned to come online later this year there had been a newly formed organic cooperative set up which now includes the Catholic Mission further north on the island. Thankfully this area escaped damage and the mission will now become our major supply of organic coconuts during the recovery period. Other village communities that did not suffer damage will be utilized to supplement the coconuts required to keep up with our monthly supplies.

We would once again just like to convey our thanks and upmost appreciation to our wonderful Nature Pacific customers and friends who got behind our company’s efforts and our daughter Brynley King’s – Pray For Fiji Go Fund Me page. We were able to donate around $10,000 worth of immediate food aid and assistance for the school supplies for the children.  Another big thank you to local Taveuni storekeepers who also discounted items to assist us. We believed it was essential to inject as much money into the local island economy at such a time in need.

For those who would still like to offer assistance and help we are would like to recommend Petero Civoniceva Foundation who has his local Fiji team run by Chris and Lauren working on the ground over there.  Please contact Ken Sigrah, Nature Pacific at: ken@naturepacific.com for more information or go to Petero’s Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/Petero-Civoniceva-Foundation-879207888775463/

More information on events during Cyclone Winston and recovery efforts can be found on Banaban Voice* Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/banabanvoice/

*Banaban Voice is a Banaban community group page sponsored by Stacey King and Ken Sigrah.

 

 church-vuna-village-fiji-survives-cyclone-winston

Miracles can happen. This is the village of Vuna next to the coconut farm on the southern end of Taveuni which suffered the full impact of TC Winston. The church was left standing intact.

 

 banabans-rabi-island-assist-with-food-aid-south-taveuni-TC-Winston

This is the size of the small boat from Rabi preparing to take over the second load of food aid for those on Southern Taveuni over 22 kms away.  

 

 nature-pacific-australia-donate-school-books-for-south-taveuni

Bertie, the farm manager assisted Ken Sigrah with the shopping at the local stores for all the school supplies they could get for the children and more bulk food rations.

 

 food-aid-arrives-taveuni-from-rabi-island-fiji

A big thank you to our families and local stores on Rabi island 22kms away for the second supply of bulk food that arrived safely on the farm.

 

donated-school-packs-nature-pacific-australia-for-taveuni-fijidonated-school-packs-nature-pacific-australia-for-taveuni-fiji

Individual school packs were prepared for the 42 children on the farm ranging from preschool to secondary.  

 

 ken-sigrah-banaban-virgin-coconut-oil-fiji-aid

Ken Sigrah and Gary Tarte handing out all the school packs to all the 42 children on the farm. So good to see the smiles back on the children’s faces.

 

 nature-pacific-donate-to-South-taveuni-school

Dropping off more bulk school supplies to South Taveuni School and High School so they could get school reopened as soon as possible.

 

australian-army-arrives-banaban-coconut-farm-taveuni-to-set-up-communication-post-TC-Winston

 Australian Armyarrives on the farm to set up communication command post.

 

 ken-sigrah-banaban-virgin-coconut-oil-meets-australian-troopos-TC-Winston

Ken Sigrah meeting up with Aussie troops before leaving the farm. They were able to use a lot of Ken’s photographs to assist them with assessing the overall damage in the area for reporting back to headquarters.

 

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