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Cottage Industries for Rotuma
by Henry Enasio

Although it bugs me a lot to say this, most of us weren't taught at school how to make money for ourselves and to be free of debt. Rather, we were taught to slave for eight or more hours a day making money for someone else.

Like the majority, I was programmed to work for someone else without any questions asked. Therefore to get an education and a job were the obvious priorities then and still are now. If only we were taught how to make money for ourselves. Therefore an alternative path has to be created for the proper use of the land and sea to help combat the high unemployment rate amongst the youths, and to alleviate poverty.

But being employed gives many of us a sense of joy, dignity, and security as well as opportunities to afford and share material things with family and friends and to indulge in the frills of a social life. Employment also often involves a sense of obligation and loyalty to one's employer, especially if our performances, hard work and the worth we bring to the organisation are appreciated. Alternatively, to be unemployed often results in a sense of hopelessness and depression since there's no perceivable alternative. For society stigmatises such a person as lazy, with drastic consequences in the pecking order to be heard at community meetings.

Perhaps these are the reasons why we have a hangover mentality to be an employee, from which it is hard to break free. We prefer to be managed and told what to do rather than to be self-employed and masters of our own destinies until we realise that it's too late to change.

I have on several occasions mooted in my letters to the Forum about cottage industries that I believe will work in Rotuma.

Bear in mind that wages for labour on the island is only $20.00 a day, and that only a few years ago the average annual income was $500.00. This average income has been inflated to approximately double that in the last seven years, mainly due to the influx of remittances ranging between $1.2 - $2m a year. Besides these, there's also the fiscal transactions generated by civil servants and non-government workers on the island. Furthermore and except for the non-Rotuman families, everyone owns their home on the island. Also, almost all the families live on the abundance of the land and the surrounding ocean to supplement their incomes. Therefore, whatever income is generated locally by any venture will almost certainly be in the form of disposable income.

Disposable income sounds intriguingly positive to me. But I can see a downside that can result in a cascading effect similar to that of the influx of remittances, which has resulted in a shift away from our traditional diet towards a processed one of bread, biscuit, noodles, tin corn beef and tin fish that has led to obesity, hypertension and diabetes. All you see is the crowd moving from the Post Office to the Postshop to spend the money they've received. But that's a choice for each individual to make and not the purpose of this essay.
I am aware of the fact that there are many other Rotumans who can contribute to the table below. Hopefully they will help to create a pool of ideas to assist islanders in making informed decisions that will result in better outcomes for their respective families. Such a resource could go a long way towards alleviating poverty, which Gagaj Maraf already called for when Government's national policy on poverty was first launched.

Download pdf of what to consider before starting a cottage industry on Rotuma

Submitted 7 April 2012