Kai or カイ


People in Fiji eat freshwater mussels. They like boiled ones, cooked in curry or coconut milk. It is sold at local markets, at F$4-7 a heap, depending on the size. It is called kai in Fijian.


I learned women glean kai in the river, but was not sure exactly how. I visited Nacokaika village to find it. The village is located along the Rewa river bank, around 30km upstream from the sea. Women launch a boat or a raft to the river and dive. Some women have been engaging in kai gleaning since they were children leaning from their grandmothers and mothers and some started when they married to men in the village. It is mostly a women’s job.


Women wear long-sleeve shirt, long leggings and a goggle, covering their face with a mixture of ash and oil. They anchor in a spot deeper or shallower than their height and dive with a small basket. They dive for a breath and come back to the boat with the basket filled with kai. After a few dives, they move to another spot. They glean one to one and half sack of kai a day and take to Suva and Nausori markets, which earn around F$70-100.  All kai are a gift from the nature.

カイは家族にも村にとっても大きな収入源です。シングルマザーのミリカさんに、カイ漁のいいところをたずねると、「私一人で二人の子供を育て、学校にやることができるんですよ」、とのこと。村の女性グループのメンバーはカイ漁の収入を投資し、トラックを購入、村人たちに貸し出し、そこからまた収入を得ます。トラックの名前は「ワイブタ ニ カブレカ」カイを煮たときの湯気の意味だそう。

Kai is a major source of income for their families and village. “I am able to send my two children to school through gleaning and selling kai all by myself”, said Milika. Women’s club of the village invested in a truck which they rent out to villagers. The truck is named ‘Waibuta ni kabuleka’, meaning steam from boiling kai.


Kai gleaning is also a hard job, particularly in cold season. “We sometimes get sick when the river is cold in cold season,” said Lusiana. It can be around 20C degree in cold season in the region in Fiji and the river water must be cold when no sun. They make a bonfire on the bank and warm themselves between their dives. All women look very fit and strong.




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