Peace - Justice - Freedom - Democracy

 



 

In a nutshell

Nature
Population

Nature

Beqa (pronounced Mbengga) lies 7.5 km south of Navua, the closest town on the Fiji main island of Viti Levu, separated by a 260 m deep marine passage. The entire Beqa Island covers 36 km2.

Beqa Island was formed as a strato-volcano 5 million years ago (while its satellite island Yancuna was formed as submarine volcano). Its conical form can still be seen on satellite or air photograph.

There is a fringing reef around the island and the barrier reef (68 km) around the lagoon of Beqa. They are both made up of colourful coral developed over hundreds of years.

The conditions for coral reef are excellent: light and shallow water, water temperatures never below 18 C and supply of zooplancton food for these plant-like animals.

Where the Reef is broken and the corals are eroded to sand, sand clays can be formed and surface as sandy, little islands during low tide.

The water in the fringing reef is 12 to 14 meters deep an in the lagoon, which stretches about 390 km2, 60 metres.

Ugaga Island (English: Steward Islands) is a fragment of volcanic rock and shows that Beqa Volcano once covered the great part of the recent lagoon.

The barrier reef is an effective protection against marine erosion. The lagoon provides valuable fishing grounds.

The south-eastern side gets more rainfall as a result of the trade winds blowing constantly from this direction. Vertical movements of air form dense thunder clouds over the island, mainly in the hot season.

The highest altitude is 480 metres above sea level. Steep land covers 70% of the surface. Only 12% can be used for agricultural production, most of it at the top of the numerous bays.

High humidity and temperatures give rise to an intensive plant growth and are well suited to year-round crop production. Many of the weeds are introduced. Undisturbed rain forest can only be found on some inaccessible slopes in the interior.

The agricultural potential of Beqa is restricted by its soil, the topography and the means of production. Rotation of crops and fields and the application of fertilizer are required.

Indigenous mammals are: Flying foxes, Fruit bats, mice, rats, mongoose. Reptiles are found as follows: terrestrial and sea snakes, lizards, skinks, geckos and frogs. Surprisingly few birds are noticed in Beqa. The richest vertebrate fauna is the marine fauna including a wide range of fish, dolphins, turtles, all sort of crustaceans and shellfish.
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Population

Captain C. Bentley was the first European landing in Beqa in 1799. In late 19th century the Polynesian Company started business on some of the Fiji islands including Beqa. After that period Beqa became part of the Colony of Fiji under the British Crown.

Today, the 9 villages of Beqa form the District of Beqa.

Beside the modern political organisation still exists the traditional social organisation: The nuclear family, consisting of only two generations, is rare. More often, the household consists of three or more generations. A group of related households form a clan. Until today, the clan makes decisions about land tenure.
All nine villages are located along the coast. All have water supply, some have a communal generator. There are no roads, and the narrow footpath winds around parts of the island. All transportation is done by boat.

The houses are small and traditionally built by reed, wood or bamboo (shipped from Viti Levu since the 1960s). Modern houses are made by cement blocks, covered with a tin roof and thus hurricane proof.

Traditionally, work was a communal effort: Land was property of the clan, and the membership in the clan gave access to the means of production. Today, the commercial sector is increasing: Beqan people sell their fish and crops on the market in Suva and Navua and buy clothing, canned food or a tape recorder or CD-player.

Until today, all villagers have communal commitments to fulfill. House ore church building and repair, maintenance of the water system or lawns mowing are some of the common tasks. Some villages have undertaken projects to earn communal money, like fire-walking in holiday resorts.

A postal service and radiotelephone is installed. Medical service is guaranteed by a doctor and a nurse. Two elementary schools and a small number of retail shops complete the services on Beqa.
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Fiji Labour Party
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