29 Jan 2004

Villagers in remote Fiji Highlands agree to stop growing marijuana in return for road

4:49 pm on 29 January 2004

Seven villages in the interior highlands of Fiji's main island of Viti Levu have promised the government their people will stop growing marijuana for sale.

Ten government ministers travelled last week to the remote area of Navatusila to speak with the 800 residents there, assessing what services they need and persuading them to stop growing the illicit drug.

An officer with the Information ministry, Viliame Tikotami, travelled with the ministers.

He says the villagers told the MPs, because there is no road linking them with the outside world, it takes days to get traditional crops of taro, cassava and kumara to the closest market.

"They've been planting marijuana because it is easy to take to the market, through horseback. They wouldn't be taking any crops..take the long way, which means three days."

Mr Tikotami says the Minister for Lands, Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu, told the villagers that within six months, there would be a road connecting them with the main road to Nadi.

In return, the villagers said they will replace the marijuana crops with traditional ones.