The Vakatabu Project that calls for a slowing down of thinking and doing considering the fast space of development and corresponding social issues, is now launched.
The Fijian Ministry of Itaukei Affairs Deputy Permanent Secretary Paula Tuione launched the “Vakatabu: Including Indigenous Knowledge and Culture in the Pacific Development Discourse” programme. The programme is about communities using indigenous knowledge, culture and traditional wisdom that have kept them resilient and sustainable for eons, to counter and deal with the challenges of modern times. For example, in Fiji, the chokehold of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) is at an all-time high. Rising sharply over the past two decades, NCDs like heart diseases, diabetes and cancers are rife, accounting for 85% of total deaths in the country. Using traditional values around food and identity – communities can build defences to deal with NCDs. Another major challenge is climate change. Some of the insidious challenges villagers face are the saltwater encroachment of farming lands, flooding of homes, and the forcible relocation of whole communities. The ancestor’s wisdom includes countering intrusive elements to maintain soil health for food security and to sustain livelihoods. Traditional methods of food preservation build a community’s resilience in times of freak floods and storms and prolonged periods of dry weather. A vital aim of the program is to work with communities in elevating understanding of the essential relationships they share with ecology and the ecosystem of life. It’s a relationship that is part of their identity as indigenous peoples, one that sustains their very being.
The Vakatabu – a three-year project supported by Bread for the World – will be implemented in 18 iTaukei Fijian village communities across nine provinces. It is a partnership between iTaukei Fijian communities, the Institute for Mission and Research (coordinators), the Pacific Theological College, the Ministry of iTaukei Affairs and the Pacific Conference of Churches.