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.”