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We boarded the ferry at Natovi and set off for Nabouwalu just after dawn, embarking on a week of workshops to help develop community-led management plans in the districts of Vuya and Dama in the province of Bua.
The ferry seems to get busier every time, with a notable range of digging, drilling and other machines as well as the returning trucks having swapped their cargo of dalo for a range of goods from Suva. Seats were at a premium with four full buses aboard, many returning from the ordination of the new Archbishop of Suva. I was too excited and distracted by the scenery to sleep anyway.
The workshops were the first of their kind in Vuya (hosted in Wairiki village) and Dama (Dama village) and followed on from our recent village awareness sessions. They were well attended by a range of men (including chiefs and district/village headmen), women and young people. This included Ratu Semi, Assistant Roko Tui from Bua Provincial Office, and Pita the National Trust Ranger from Yadua island, which is also a sanctuary for the critically endangered Fiji crested iguana.
Following the sevusevu (formal presentation of our intentions and request for acceptance into the village) and introductions, the Provincial Administrator for Bua outlined local development projects and opportunities including a range of potential tikina-based income generating activities. Ilia Nakoro from Fiji Museum then provided an overview of cultural heritage conservation issues, giving the workshop a holistic focus in the context of local sustainable development.
Participants mapped local water sources, land uses and threats as well as existing and proposed community protected areas. Conceptual modeling exercises helped them identify targets, threats and strategies for ecosystem-based management. Initial activities and local management rules were then proposed in relation to some strategies as people became enthused to take action.
On our second night in each village, they lifted an ongoing church tabu on drinking kava. Sitting around the kava bowl in Dama, the talatala (minister) explained that he was happy to see the social instincts and cultural norms prevail, suggesting that such occasions are central to the collective spirit which makes communities strong. These were great social occasions, establishing friendships, reaffirming traditional relationships as well as cementing commitment and sharing knowledge.
Ilia and KK were especially happy as they left, protectively cradling the precious yasi (sandlewood) samplings they had been given to take home.
Recently I was lucky enough to attend a training course in methods of community adaptation to climate change, run by the Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development (PACE-SD). My 2 week trip to Vanuatu for this training was inspiring and taught me a lot of things about climate change. It’s amazing what we learned from one of the presenters, Dr Chris Bartlett from SPC-GTZ, about the wide range of different effects of climate change. After a week of classroom learning, we had a week in the field to visit community-based climate change adaptation projects and learn from them.
I was happy to see first-hand how they have setup a pilot project on the island of Pele which accommodates 4 villages (Piliura, Warasiviu, Launamoa and Worearu). The communities take full ownership of the project to make good use of the resources around them. For example, each village has their own MPA, the school has 2 composting toilets, Piliura village has a solar drying food compartment, and they even have a nursery in which they use Crown of Thorns starfish as manure! First they first collect the starfish, then ‘weather’ them to remove salt (either by burying or leaving exposed). Once properly dried the starfish are ground up and put in a composter, mixed with leaves, soil or organic matter and left to compost for 3-6 months with regular aeration and mixing. The village of Launamoa have a piggery, where cross breed the wild pigs and the normal ones and feed them with coconut and other food scraps. Pig waste is then collected and mixed with leaves or other organic matter to be used as manure for their sweet potato and vegetable gardens. I am quite sure that this can also be used in some communities we work in Fiji, with minimum help from government.
As well as the excellent training, the 2 week trip was a chance to go back to my birthplace for the first time. The French influence was still very clear; I was surprised to see in most supermarkets how much food is imported and I wonder how do they offset these costs? However, the food was delicious especially the nice juicy steak!
Here are the 3 parts of Fiji One’s ‘Close Up’ show, including an interview with WCS Fiji Director Dr Stacy Jupiter. The footage was shot earlier this month in the remote Daria village, Wainunu, when the communities launched their network of 7 terrestrial, freshwater and marine protected areas. Luckily the sun shone for the filming; a rare treat in the famously rainy Wainunu.
This new protected area network covers 52 km2, with 6km2 in 4 periodically harvested fisheries closures (tabu areas) and the remaining 46km2 in 3 upland protected areas; equivalent to 5% of the Wainunu traditional fisheries management area and 17% of the district lands. The marine protected areas focus on resilient reefs which have the best chance of ensuring future food security in the face of climate change.
Reef managers in Fiji have expanded their understanding of the science behind coral reef resilience, and the benefits a resilient reef can bring, helping with better management strategies for the future of coral reefs. More than 20 people from Fiji’s Locally Managed Marine Area network attended the reef resilience (R2) training organized by WCS Fiji in Suva. The training touched on topics such as climate change impacts on reef ecosystems, coral disease, early warning systems, resilient MPA design, bleaching response plan and effective communication of reef resilience concepts to communities.
The major outcome of R2 training was the development of a local-scale bleaching response plan template for communities. This plan can be adapted for the different communities across Fiji, and takes a simple and pragmatic approach, with the main resources required being community support and keen eyes! It is divided into four components: (1) Coral health and impact assessment – eyes on reef; (2) Early warning systems – communication tools; (3) Management actions – preventative and responsive; and, (4) Socioeconomic implications.
The training was a success as all participants left with an implementation plan for their sites, for example to update communities on reef resilience concepts or to request new protected areas to increase the resilience of the local MPA network. A big vinaka to all participants and facilitators! This project was kindly supported by The Nature Conservancy.