Sandalwood for many of us is just another one of our essential oils we put into our diffuser. For Fiji, it is an investment in the future.
Sandalwood, or yasi as it is known in Fiji, was once plentiful in Vanua Levu, the northern region of Fiji where Vorovoro is located. But unfortunately it was harvested and exploited by European settlers in the early 1800’s. The land was stripped of its sandalwood and native Fijians received very little in return. However, there is a movement in Fiji to reclaim this valuable resource. In recent years, there has been a lot of education and replanting of yasi because overseas demand for it is high. It's a great investment crop and the current market price range is from $80 to $100 FJD per kilogram. A sandalwood tree can take anywhere from 15-30 years to mature, depending on the cultivation method. The tree is viewed in Fiji as a valuable, long-term investment and everyone is encouraged to plant it.
Tui Mali has been carefully tending a few yasi trees on Vorovoro for many years now. Vorovoro is a tiny island, so the harsh weather of cyclones and the seasonal lack of rain can make growing yasi especially challenging. This past year (2019), Auburn University established a program with Cegu Valley Farm to plant yasi trees to help offset their travel carbon. These newly planted trees also provide the farm with seedlings, which the McCay family sells for a profit.