Bula Sia tribe members,

As some of you will have noticed the coconut wireless has been in flow recently with talk of Tribewanted not re-opening in April this year as planned.

Now is a good time to give my perspective on the situation.

On my last trip to Fiji in June 2010 it was discussed that Tribewanted would raise more funds to invest in the infrastructure on Vorovoro and finalise a new partnership agreement by the time we re-open in April 2011.

I have kept a continual discussion going with Jimmy & Jenny Cahill
(Island Director and Managers in 2009/10 who are keen to return to
Vorovoro) about re-forming a partnership with Tui Mali and the
Mataqali (landowners) of Vorovoro.The future partnership would mean majority ownership with the landowners (providing the land) and The Cahills (providing the management) in Fiji and Tribewanted being the international partner and project supporter guaranteeing a minimum monthly investment regardless of the bookings. It would also mean renegotiating the land lease, since the government wants 5 years upfront, which we just cannot afford.

But there are two main reasons why things have not progressed so far.

Firstly, finance. We have made an effort to keep the cost of visiting Vorovoro as low as possible but during a quiet period this has really impacted a now loss making business in Fiji, restricting our ability to employ the number of people we would like to employ and the quality of the village infrastructure. Running a remote Fijian island isn’t cheap! In hindsight we should have charged more earlier in the project to make it sustainable. We’re therefore not in a strong position to negotiate having sunk funds into the project and financing its debts.

Secondly, and to be frank here, working with the landowners has not always been that easy. There is no doubt Tui Mali has been a loyal friend and supporter of the project. But some of the other members of the mataqali (landowners) have not been as supportive and have disagreed with Tui Mali about how the project should work. This has been bubbling away for a long-time and was going to surface at some point. My understanding is that the majority of the landowners want the project to continue but it has not been resolved between them yet.

I haven’t given up on forming a new partnership and the project
continuing but the combination of a business (in Fiji) making a loss and some differences of opinion within the Mataqali has made going forward together difficult.

I am in contact with tribe members booked this year personally about
what happens next.

Of course many of you have put a lot of work, time and money into
Vorovoro (and got a lot out of it too) and we would all like this to
continue. Filippo and I have some strong ideas about growing
Tribewanted for the future based on our experiences in Sierra Leone
but we need to make Vorovoro work first – both for this reason and for the fact that it is our first home and means so much to so many

Thank you for your patience and support. I will update you all as soon as any developments take place in the coming days.

Please send any questions you have to ben@tribewanted.com although
please be patient with my response as communications from John Obey
here in Sierra Leone are slow.