Retired Archbishop ventures into conservation efforts
By RONALD TOITO’ONA
SEA foods are seemingly the most expensive foodstuff in hotels, restaurants, and other eateries in Honiara and the provinces.
During Star National Magazine’s recent trip to Kia district in Isabel Province, I caught up with the retired Anglican Church of Melanesia (ACoM) Archbishop David Vunagi.
Bishop Vunagi, who now resides at his retirement home in Kia, is one of the persons that has an interesting history, when it comes to sea food farming.
Speaking exclusively to this magazine, Bishop Vunagi said there is a huge potential for local sea food farming and conservation in the Kia district.
At his secluded and quiet island home, he runs mud-crab farming, and has protected a number of marine resources which are mostly sea foods – just in front of the entrance to his retirement home.
After retiring from the ACoM’s top post, Bishop Vunagi returned to his wife’s home village at Kia and has been busy over the last two years with his small farm.
“I have been farming the mud crabs since 2015, after retiring from church duties,” Bishop Vunagi told the Star National.
“However, I was not successful in hatching the female crabs, maybe due to the environment in which I am looking after them or maybe, the stream that is running down from the hills, through the mangroves is being diluted with the sea.
”So the salinity of the sea is not pure sea. But I still did not gave up until I become successful,” Bishop Vunagi said.
During the visit, his farm is not fully stocked with the mud-crabs, as the bech-de-mer open period has forced local fishermen to forget about harvesting the crabs for a while.
He said before the ban was lifted few months ago, his farming business has been helping the people of the said region of Isabel province very much.
“The bech-de-mer period is also slowing me down, as most fishermen are now concentrating on collecting them.
“But before that, I have been helping people, mostly fishermen by buying off the mud crabs that they have collected.
“I bought them for less than a hundred dollars, but the prices may defer, according to its weight and not sizes,” he explained.
Asked about how he normally buys the product from the fishermen, Bishop Vunagi said he decided to weigh the crabs to determine their buying prices, because most that are huge sometimes did not have eatable meats inside.
For the fishermen, money collected from the sales of the crabs is being used to pay for their children’s’ school fees and the family’s daily meals or for home use.
His main client in Honiara is the Honiara hotel.
The hotel normally sends in orders to Bishop Vunagi, during the peak time of harvest at his farm.
“Apart from the hotel, I also have other clients in Honiara, who are mostly my close friends. They do normally order mud crabs and fish from me,” the former ACoM Archbishop said.
Bishop Vunagi described his small farming exercise as a “small activity to enjoy, while staying at home.”
Meanwhile, he told the Star National that he wanted to go into serious business, once he gets support from the government, through the Ministry responsible.
On various occasions, he has made attempts to the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR) to educate himself about conservation.
However, he was not successful enough to get to talk and discuss with the right people at the ministry.
But he is optimistic that the government will soon realise the potential to farming mud crabs and other marine resources in places like Kia.