Fiji is a small island developing country that lies in the heart of the Pacific Ocean midway between the Equator and the South Pole. It is a group of 330 islands of which a third are settled with total land area of 18,333 square kilometers. Fiji’s Exclusive Economic Zone covers 1.3 million square kilometers of the South Pacific Ocean. The capital is Suva and it is one of the two cities in Fiji. The other city is Lautoka and both are located on the island of Viti Levu.
Fiji is renowned as the HUB of the South Pacific or Oceanian region where it is host to many international organisations and diplomatic corps that are also accredited to several neighbouring countries. It is also the destiny that links many Pacific Island Countries to the world.
Fiji is a multiethnic and multicultural country. Its 2017 census registered a population of 884,887 compared to 837,271 in the 2007 census. This is an increase of 47,616 or 5.7 percent. The average annual population growth is 0.6 percent, due to low birth rates and out migration.
The median age of population is 27.5 years. This means that half of our population is below the age of 27.5 years. 69 percent of Fiji’s population is below the age of 40. Men make up 50.7 percent of the population while women make up 49.3 percent. While the proportion of males was higher below the age of 59 years, the female population was higher in the age groups above 60, indicating greater female longevity.
55.9 percent of Fiji’s population reside in urban areas, an increase from 50.7 percent in 2007. The urban population stood at 494,252, an increase of 69,406 (16.3%) from 2007. This is attributed to extension of town boundaries and also due to movement of people from rural to urban areas.
44.1 percent of Fiji’s population reside in rural areas, down from 49.3 percent in 2007. Rural population stood at 390,635, a decline of 21,790 (5.3%) from 2007.
Unemployment rate was down to 4.5 percent, the lowest recorded in 20 years. This is lower than the 5.5 percent unemployment rate established from the 2015-2016 Employment and Unemployment Survey.
The Labour Force Participation Rate (labour force/ population aged over 15 years) is 57.1 percent. 62.7 percent of the population aged 15 years and older reported to having bank account. This represents a total of 392,148 individuals.
13.7 percent of population aged three and above reported at least one functioning challenge (disability). the international benchmark is 15 percent.
Fiji is blessed with a tropical south sea maritime climate without great extremes of heat or cold. At all seasons the predominant winds over Fiji are the trade winds from the east to the south-east. In general, the winds over Fiji are light or moderate, the most persistent being in the period from July to December. Temperatures average 22°Celsius (72°F) for the cooler months, May to October, while November to April temperatures are higher with heavy downpours. The islands lie in area that is occasionally traversed by tropical cyclones, and mostly confined between the months of November to April.
Flora and Fauna
Fiji’s flora and fauna are relatively few in number but are of exceptional scientific interest because of the higher proportion of endemic forms. Ten per cent of the 476 indigenous Fijian plant species identified are endemic. Fiji also has a few rare reptiles and birds. Notable of this, is the Crested Iguana, found only in some parts of Fiji. Other rare species include the Fiji burrowing snake, Fiji petrel, the pink-billed parrot finch, the red throat lorikeet, and the long legged warbler.
On the fringe of a remote lake four thousand feet above sea level in the middle of a dormant volcano on Taveuni grows one of the rarest flowers in the world called the unique Tagimoucia (Medinilla). Interestingly it is no flower but tears of a Fijian Princess according to a Fijian Legend.
History and People
The Europeans discoveries of the Fiji group were accidental. The first of these discoveries was made in 1643 by the Dutch explorer, Abel Tasman and English navigators, namely Captain James Cook who sailed through in 1774, and made further explorations in the 18th century.
Major credit for the discovery and recording of the islands went to Captain William Bligh who sailed through Fiji after the mutiny on the Bounty in 1789.
Fijian of Indian Descent
From 1879 to 1916 Indians came as indentured labourers to work on the sugar plantations. After the indentured system was abolished, many stayed on as independent farmers and businessmen.
Fiji was ceded to Great Britain in 1874 and gained its independence on 10th October, 1970.
English is the official language and majority speaks English. However, the two major vernaculars are the I-Taukei or Indigenous Fijian language and Hindi. The ‘I-Taukei’ or the Indigenous Fijians have their own provincial distinct dialects. Fijians of Indian descent too have their own and generally speak a distinctive Fiji-Hindi dialect.
Fiji is a blend of fascinating ancient cultures. Tranquil villages nestled in out of the way places. Rituals such as the ‘yaqona’ (kava) ceremony are enacted as they have been for centuries and visitors are welcomed as honored guests.