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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.
The WCS field team left behind the familiar villages of Kubulau to travel westward to seven villages in Nadi and Solevu Districts, Bua Province, Vanua Levu. Their mission was to find out about some important decisions made at recent village meetings, regarding proposed protected areas and district-wide rules—for the seas, the mangroves, the rivers and the forests of these two districts. These areas and rules were originally proposed by workshop attendees from Nadi and Solevu districts, who joined the Wainunu Management Planning workshop which was held in Daria village, Wainunu District, in November 2011.
Solevu has identified seven tabu areas in their qoliqoli and along the coast, including the whole of Solevu’s outer reef as a district marine protected area. Three terrestrial and freshwater tabu areas have been identified, which aim to protect Solevu’s main water catchment. Similarly ambitious, Nadi has proposed twelve marine and coastal tabu areas, also including their whole outer reef in a district marine protected area. Nadi’s forests and rivers will also be protected with five freshwater and terrestrial tabu areas.
At the Bose Vanua meeting for Solevu on 16 March, all tabu areas were finalised. A signing ceremony for Solevu will be arranged to formally launch the network of protected areas. In Nadi district, the village tabu areas are already in place, while the district marine protected area is awaiting confirmation.
Both districts have urgently requested awareness-raising and education on nature conservation issues. As well as this, the districts will form resource management committees who will then be able to develop draft management plans with the support of WCS Fiji. These draft management plans will include the finalized maps and rules for protected areas as well as the wider district, information about enforcement of protected areas and—importantly—a list of agreed steps which will be taken to make sure that the aims of the management plan will be met.
These new tabu areas are an exciting addition to the existing network of community-managed protected areas, that started in Kubulau and is currently being expanded into Wainunu and Wailevu districts. By acting together, the benefits for the whole Vatu-i-Ra Seascape will be the greatest. Communities of Bua and Cakaudrove provinces are taking the right steps for the health of their natural resources and for their own livelihoods—now and for the future.
Staff from the Wildlife Conservation Society Fiji Program and the Institute of Applied Sciences at USP spent last week braving the wind and rains to survey the impacts of the community harvest of the Navakavu tabu area. Read more about the event from this article in the Fiji Times:
Like fish (and invertebrate) puppets? Want to see environmental education in action? Then watch this short video we have made about a recent WCS Fiji trip to five schools in Kubulau and Wainunu districts to launch our comic “The Adventures of Joji Goby” with puppet shows. The puppets were made from recycled materials by Anne O’Brien of Anniemals. The project was kindly supported by the Disney Friends for Change Programme.