Fiji communities cross boundaries for conservation in Cakaudrove

Mapping proposed protected area locations for Nakawaga.

When the villagers of Nakawaga and Nukubolu heard about Ecosystem-Based Management developing in the neighbouring district (tikina) of Wailevu, they approached WCS Fiji to find out more. Nakawaga and Nukubolu are located in the heavily forested, steep sided upper valley of the Nasekawa River, in the district of Koroalau in Cakaudrove Province. They are approximately 10km upstream from the district border, along the Nasekawa River which crosses Wailevu before discharging into Savusavu Bay.

Recognising their ecological and hydrological connectivity with ecosystems downstream, Nakawaga and Nukubolu hosted an awareness raising workshop and have now made links with Wailevu East Resource Management Committee (WERMC) in July. They will play active role in WERMC, adding their own experience of having managed the upper catchment (protecting a 2km stretch of river for over 10 years) and developed a range of community ecotourism activities.

Veresa Matakaruru, a Nakawaga village elder, said “We Fijian communities are connected by our forests, rivers and natural resources, as well as by our culture. We welcome the opportunity to work with different tikina, to help each other and preserve the natural environment with which we are blessed”.

Fiji was a global attraction at the International Coral Reef Symposium

Fiji delegates shared conservation success stories and ongoing efforts at the 12th International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS) in Cairns, Australia (9-13 July 2012). Fiji was represented by partner organizations from the Fiji Locally Managed Marine Area (FLMMA) network, including WCS Fiji (Stacy, Margy, Akuila and I made up our team), the Institute of Applied Sciences (IAS) at the University of the South Pacific, and SeaWeb.

Although not officially part of the coral triangle hotspot, Fiji was shown to be a marine biodiversity hotspot in Stacy’s presentation. Margy captured a lot of attention by linking traditional knowledge to protecting spawning aggregation sites in Fiji. Akuila shared his story on the importance of adaptive management. I became a celebrity, posing with my poster on “Consideration of disturbance history for resilient MPA network design”. Ron Vave (IAS), charmed the audience with his findings on the effectiveness of locally managed marine areas in Fiji, while Saki Fong (IAS) shed more light on the socioeconomic implications of establishing these marine protected areas. Semesi Meo gave the audience a show on ecological effectiveness of community-based management in Fiji. Alifereti Tawake (a former IAS staff member, now a PhD student at James Cook University) talked about social and cultural attributes of effective adaptive management systems.

                   

Our shared experiences of conservation on the ground were enough to let the world know about Fiji. The reports from international students who have worked in Fiji got other people interested in working in these beautiful islands in the future – this really gave us a boost to hear their enthusiasm.

ICRS was a great chance for us to network with a number of leading conservation managers and scientists from all over the world. At the same time we were digesting as much information as possible from the diverse efforts being undertaken internationally to ensure coral reefs thrive in the future.

Fact-finding mission in Vanua Levu

This week I’m back in the office after a fascinating trip to Vanua Levu. My mission was to gather maps of areas under logging concession, as well as information about any other planned activities. WCS Fiji will use these maps in our work with landowners to identify new forest protected areas. Akanisi Caginitoba (Cagi for short) was my right-hand woman, making sure that we followed proper Fijian protocol in our visits to various offices – including always taking morning or afternoon tea to the people we were visiting!

We started in dusty Labasa, and spent a few days visiting offices there. Department of Forestry and iTaukei Land Trust Board are key contacts for mapping this kind of information. The office of the Commissioner Northern made us most welcome; in the future the Commissioner hopes to build a mapping system for the whole of Vanua Levu, to show areas for development and those to be protected for conservation.

All logging companies operating in Vanua Levu have a base in Labasa, so we spent a lot of time learning about how the logging industry works, and pouring over maps with them. We gleaned a lot of useful information. The people we met were very supportive of spatial planning, using maps to decide what activities should go where. Areas not ideal for logging are often of high conservation value because of the inaccessible nature of those forests.

From Labasa we carried on to Savusavu, to check in with WCS’ Community Liaison Officer Didi and the Cakaudrove Provincial Office. (Here we tasted the finest pizza in Vanua Levu.) Then it was a long and bumpy journey back to Nabouwalu. On the road from Dreketi to Nabouwalu we passed the famous Nawailevu bauxite mine and saw the loads of soil waiting for export.

After a night in Nabouwalu, we met with the Bua Provincial Office to discuss our project, before we caught the ferry back home to Suva. My laptop returned full of information, so this week we are very busy getting the maps ready to be used in the next stage of the project: identifying landowners to work with in order to set up community-based management of forests.

This project is kindly supported by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), a joint program of l’Agence Française de Développement, Conservation International, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the World Bank.

WCS Fiji team visited Fiji Forest Industries, near Labasa, who hold most logging concessions in Wainunu district.

 

Ecosystem-Based Management is taking shape in Nadi and Solevu

Two more districts in Vanua Levu are establishing Ecosystem-Based Management Plans to safeguard their natural resources.

The districts of Nadi and Solevu, situated in the province of Bua, rely heavily on natural resources to meet their subsistence needs. In November 2011, they sent representatives to a management planning workshop in the nearby district of Wainunu, where they found out more about environmental issues and Ecosystem-Based Management (EBM), which fuses scientific principles with local and traditional ecological knowledge to promote sustainable management of terrestrial, freshwater, estuarine, coastal and marine habitats. These representatives took part in a conceptual modeling exercise which identified conservation targets, threats affecting those targets and strategies through which the threats could be addressed.

Participants at a workshop in Nadi devise management rules for their terrestrial & marine protected areas.

In January 2012, WCS Fiji has facilitated further consultation with each village in Nadi and Solevu. Recent district-wide workshops have further defined networks of freshwater, terrestrial and marine protected areas and sets of rules to govern the management of natural resources. These rules and protected area network will provide the basis for Ecosystem-Based Management Plans to maintain healthy, productive and resilient ecosystems in order to overcome pressure from population growth and climate change, enhance local quality of life and meet the needs of future generations.

WCS Fiji’s Director Stacy Jupiter stated “We would like to thank the leaders and communities of Nadi and Solevu. They should be congratulated on their progress and we look forward to supporting the development and implementation of their management plans.”

Children of Solveu will reap the benefits of the new protected area network.

WCS Fiji has applied EBM in working with communities in adjoining districts of Kubulau, Wainunu and Wailevu along the south of Vanua Levu. The expanding reach of this approach reflects its success (particularly in Kubulau where the approach has been established for longest), associated growth in demand from communities and WCS Fiji’s focus on the Vatu-i-Ra Ecoscape, one of Fiji’s last great wild places.