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During the annual gathering of the Fiji Locally Marine Managed Area Network (FLMMA) which was held at the Forestry Department Training Centre in Colo-i-Suva from 10th-13th December 2013, there was unanimous consensus from the participants on upholding and strengthening environmental stewardship in Fiji.
The latter was captured in the FLMMA Strategic Plan 2020 vision statement: “A network of vibrant, resilient and empowered communities that uphold our heritage through fair partnerships and enabling environment for stewardship of healthy ecosystems to sustain livelihoods and food security for Fiji’s future”.
In this gathering, a host of issues was covered in the 4 day event including a review of the FLMMA strategic plan, discussions on existing natural resource management in the various FLMMA project sites, visioning exercises and presentations, cross site exchange with participants from Tonga & Vanuatu, and finally the FLMMA Annual General Meeting on Friday, which witnessed the appointment of the Turaga RokoSaufrom Lau, Ratu Josefa Cinavilakeba as the new FLMMA trustee replacing the late Tui Tavua and, the announcement of the new FLMMA coordinator to the AGM participants.
A number of issues were discussed in this gathering including the suggestion to change the acronym of Locally Managed Marine Area (LMMA) to Locally Managed Area (LMA) in a move to incorporate the Ridge-to-Reef approach.
Additionally, there was an emphasis to upscale existing good work within the FLMMA project sites, coupled by a focus on FLMMA to work through the Yaubula Management Support Team (YMST) in order to achieve project sustainability coupled by equitable distribution of resources (either technical, financial or otherwise) and thereby, having a larger spatial coverage of Community Based Resource Management (CBRM) sites in Fiji.
Furthermore, there were calls to update existing legislations pertaining to promotingsustainable fishery in Fiji, while the move to expand the FLMMA network beyond the scope of conventional FLMMA partners and also to establish a“Friends of FLMMA” initiative was deliberated.
Sequentially, the need to strengthen a host of technical infrastructure including the; FLMMA Secretariat, YMST support network and, the education &awareness aspect of sustainable natural resource use including climate change impacts, were also highlighted in the discussions and visioning exercises.
All in all, the FLMMA annual gathering was a greatforum for the various stakeholders of the network to converge, discuss, envision, update, educate and know each other.
It also provided an incredible opportunity to witness the diversity of Fiji and the social relationships between the participants from all the corners of the country where allegiance and friendly rivalry was the norm of the day and night.
Experiencing the lovely camaraderie that bonds this FLMMA family together was delightful, particularly as they converged over the tanoa in the evenings to discuss a common passion that they all shared: that they become better environmental stewards for the sake of their beloved country and their future generation.
A passion that is aptly captured in the words of Canadian environmentalist, David Suzuki: “unless we are willing to teach our children to reconnect and appreciate the natural world, we can’t expect them to help protect and care for it.”
After a request from the Kubulau Resource Management Committee to be trained on the methods of building community nurseries and on Sustainable Land Management (SLM) practices, the fifth module of Community Educators Network (CEN) Training was completed last week. Participants from each of the 10 villages of Kubulau attended the 2-day workshop in Namalata Village, Kubulau District. The workshop facilitated by WCS Fiji and the Coral Reef Alliance with collaboration from the Forestry Department and the Department of Agriculture’s Land Use Planning Section.
The first part of this training focused on watershed conservation, coastal and watershed restoration and the the theoretical and practical techniques of building a community nursery. This entailed a field visit to the Naravuka Village nursery in Seaqaqa for the participants to witness first-hand how a simple community nursery is constructed and the benefits and challenges of having a community nursery.
This project was kindly supported by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.
The Land Use Planning Section of the Department of Agriculture explained Sustainable Land Management (SLM) practices to the participants, followed by field trips to Montfort Technical Institute to observe their integrated farming system, and to the Vuniyasawa Village’s vetiver grass project to view how soil erosion on hill slopes could be managed by planting vetiver grass.
This CEN Training was very informative and thoroughly enjoyed by the participants, particularly the field visits, which provided them the practical knowledge on how to make the theories learnt become a reality.
Staff from WCS Fiji joined their WCS Bangladesh counterparts in conducting research on dolphins and whales found in the Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh. For WCS Fiji Field Officers, Margaret Fox and Waisea Naisilisili, this research was part of their training on how to conduct whale and dolphin surveys, with their new skills to be put into practice in Fiji.
It was the first time in this region for the two Fijians and they had an amazing experience in working with the WCS staff from Bangladesh and soaking up the lifestyle and culture of this country. The highlights of their trip started with their journey downriver where they encountered the enigmatic river dolphins, the Irrawaddy and Ganges River dolphins, through to the Sundarban Reserve. This reserve boasts the largest block of mangrove forest in the world and hosts a multitude of species including the rare Royal Bengali tigers, crocodiles, monkeys, deer, various birds, fish, mammals and plants. They continued on to the Bay of Bengal where they conducted extensive studies on the resident but timid Humpback dolphins while also encountering pods of Bottlenose dolphins, Finless porpoises and a Bryde’s Whale.
This intense and informative research trip provided a great insight on the biodiversity and human induced impacts on natural resources from another region, while also training the WCS Fiji staff on the various methodologies that can be applied when conducting scientific surveys on dolphins and whales in Fiji.