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In beautiful Wailevu village, overlooking the stunning blue waters of Savusavu Bay, a formal ceremony took place outside the home of Tui Wailevu, Ratu Kinijoji Rarokoqica Maivalili (High Chief of the District) to launch the Wailevu District Ecosystem-Based Management Plan.
In front of assorted Chiefs, representatives of government, NGOs and community members, the Tui Wailevu spoke of his support for the management plan and the need to safeguard precious local environmental resources. “This is a historic occasion for the people of Wailevu” he stated, “I thank the Provincial Office, the Wildlife Conservation Society and other partners for their support as we take steps to manage our resources for future generations”.
The management plan, developed by communities over the past two years, includes management rules for a network totaling 67Km2 of marine, freshwater and terrestrial protected areas, as well as additional regulations to protect local resources within the district and its customary fishing grounds (iqoliqoli).
It was great to see so many partners and community representatives present as High Chiefs signed the document and it was blessed in a ceremony on the beach.
Dr. Stacy Jupiter, Director of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Fiji Country Program had flown in to take part. “This reflects a community-driven approach that is informed by extensive scientific assessments alongside local ecological knowledge”, she stated. “I congratulate the people of Wailevu on the management plan, which provides a focus for them working together to maintain healthy ecosystems that benefit all communities.”
Wailevu is the largest district in Fiji, with 27 villages and over 6,000 people. Considerable coordination is required for effective management across its large terrestrial and marine areas. Two resource management committees have been established (for Wailevu West and Wailevu East) to deliver the plan and report progress to traditional leaders through the Bose Vanua. The management plan also includes communities in the Upper Nasekawa River Basin area of neighbouring Koroalau district, demonstrating a commitment to cooperation across boundaries as part of an Ecosystem-Based Management approach.
The Roko Tui Cakaudrove, Bulutani Mataitawakilai also offered his support. “The Cakaudrove Provincial Council Office congratulates the people of Wailevu, who have recognised the importance of working together to protect their natural resources for future generations. Working with Cakaudrove Yaubula Management Support Team, the Provincial Office will continue to support the Vanua Wailevu and encourages other Tikina in the Province to adopt their approach. We thank the Tui Wailevu and his Masi ni Vanua for adopting and supporting sustainable natural resources management”.
So much work has gone into the planning process, but this is only a starting point. With plenty to be done in raising awareness, implementing and monitoring the plan, I guess this is where the real work begins!