Nahue - preserving local tradition

"Without the mangroves we cannot produce salt,” says 72 year old Tai Butani. She is the only person left in the Tikina Wai region who knows how to produce salt by using salt pounds in a way that has been in the village tradition for generations. With funding assistance through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Global Environmental Facility (GEF) Small Grant Programme (SGP) and technical assistance from the WWF she is now able to conduct workshops to pass her knowledge on to younger women of the village.

Highlights

  • Tikina Wai consists of six villages which between 1976 and 1994 lost about 11 hectares of mangroves and 3 hectares of salt pounds.
  • Lomawai village is one of the few remaining villages in Fiji still making salt the traditional way.
  • Mangroves in Fiji are owned by the state and administered by the Department of Lands, but also fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of Forests, Department of Fisheries and the Department of Environment.

Promoting Ecotourism
The “Nahue – Community Conservation Project”, initially started by WWF II years ago, discovered that the village people were cutting down huge amounts of mangroves in the region. Tikina Wai consists of six villages which between 1976 and 1994 lost about 11 hectares of mangroves and 3 hectares of salt pounds.

The habitat area is considered to be of ecological importance as well as a natural protection for the effects of climate change. UNDP has co-funded the project since 2007 and through workshops and education this project has been successful of slowing down locals removing the mangrove plants unnecessarily.

“The mangroves play an important part for us to be able to produce salt, because they function as a filter for the salt water coming from the sea. Without the protection of mangroves we wouldn’t be able to produce anything,” says Tai Butani in Fijian. Lomawai village, is famous for its salt producing tradition. She is now passing on her knowledge to ensure future generations are able to carry on with the making of salt.

“In the old days we always took salt as a gift when visiting other villages. We are known for that in my village and I would like us to continue with this tradition,” Tai Butani adds.

The project also has established contact with several hotels in the area in aims of arranging ecotourism tours to show how salt was originally produced. They are also learning how to make beautiful packages for the salt, so it functions as a great souvenir.

Work closer to home
“The main source of income for these villages in the Loma Wai District is fishing and they have mentioned that they now have to go further and longer out to find fish, so this project is giving them a source of livelihood closer to home. They can actually just go across the road to the ecotourism initiative and sell traditional handicraft to the tourists who come around,” says Sholto Fanifau, Programme Associate of the UNDP GEF-SGP Fiji Programme

Tai Butani greets us as a proud women when she shows us around the area where she has been making salt since the age of 15. She is glad that the project was started and she is grateful for the help that she has been given. “Salt making keeps me active especially when I am getting older now and I am happy that I can still function well, but I will not live forever and this is why I need to teach the women of the village how to continue this tradition,” she says.

The method includes digging from a deep pound in the mangrove swamp and then cooking the collected water over an open fire called nahue until the water burns leaving the salt residue behind. Once cooked, the salt is stored in mangrove barn baskets and used in the homes.

Making a difference
One of the beneficiaries from this project is 41-year old Diana. She is glad that she has been able to learn how to produce the salt, and she underlines the importance of spending time with the older women to learn about her own culture.

“This is good for us, because it gives us a chance to learn different things and it’s also a good way of attracting tourists to the village. I am happy that I have been given the opportunity to spend a lot of time with Tai Butani, and I hope that I can also pass what I have learned from her to the younger generations, so that they can carry on with it,” Diana says.

She is living proof that a small contribution can help a lot of people, which is in line with the aims of UNDP GEF SGP. “This project is a way of showing that we can make a difference on community level. The Small Grants Programme is all about making a change at the community level that can contribute to global benefit and by showing results we are actually proving that we can do this and in that way go one step further towards changing the world,” Ms Fanifau says.