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.