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.