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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.
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!
When the villagers of Nakawaga and Nukubolu heard about Ecosystem-Based Management developing in the neighbouring district (tikina) of Wailevu, they approached WCS Fiji to find out more. Nakawaga and Nukubolu are located in the heavily forested, steep sided upper valley of the Nasekawa River, in the district of Koroalau in Cakaudrove Province. They are approximately 10km upstream from the district border, along the Nasekawa River which crosses Wailevu before discharging into Savusavu Bay.
Recognising their ecological and hydrological connectivity with ecosystems downstream, Nakawaga and Nukubolu hosted an awareness raising workshop and have now made links with Wailevu East Resource Management Committee (WERMC) in July. They will play active role in WERMC, adding their own experience of having managed the upper catchment (protecting a 2km stretch of river for over 10 years) and developed a range of community ecotourism activities.
Veresa Matakaruru, a Nakawaga village elder, said “We Fijian communities are connected by our forests, rivers and natural resources, as well as by our culture. We welcome the opportunity to work with different tikina, to help each other and preserve the natural environment with which we are blessed”.
Two more districts in Vanua Levu are establishing Ecosystem-Based Management Plans to safeguard their natural resources.
The districts of Nadi and Solevu, situated in the province of Bua, rely heavily on natural resources to meet their subsistence needs. In November 2011, they sent representatives to a management planning workshop in the nearby district of Wainunu, where they found out more about environmental issues and Ecosystem-Based Management (EBM), which fuses scientific principles with local and traditional ecological knowledge to promote sustainable management of terrestrial, freshwater, estuarine, coastal and marine habitats. These representatives took part in a conceptual modeling exercise which identified conservation targets, threats affecting those targets and strategies through which the threats could be addressed.
In January 2012, WCS Fiji has facilitated further consultation with each village in Nadi and Solevu. Recent district-wide workshops have further defined networks of freshwater, terrestrial and marine protected areas and sets of rules to govern the management of natural resources. These rules and protected area network will provide the basis for Ecosystem-Based Management Plans to maintain healthy, productive and resilient ecosystems in order to overcome pressure from population growth and climate change, enhance local quality of life and meet the needs of future generations.
WCS Fiji’s Director Stacy Jupiter stated “We would like to thank the leaders and communities of Nadi and Solevu. They should be congratulated on their progress and we look forward to supporting the development and implementation of their management plans.”
WCS Fiji has applied EBM in working with communities in adjoining districts of Kubulau, Wainunu and Wailevu along the south of Vanua Levu. The expanding reach of this approach reflects its success (particularly in Kubulau where the approach has been established for longest), associated growth in demand from communities and WCS Fiji’s focus on the Vatu-i-Ra Ecoscape, one of Fiji’s last great wild places.
The villagers of Wainunu District (Bua Province, Fiji) gathered yesterday at Daria village to watch a special ceremony – the blessing of their new protected area network by chiefs and church leaders. Community leaders also signed their district ridge-to-reef management plan. The protected area network includes 4 marine protected areas and 3 forest protected areas, and covers almost 50 km2. Stacy Jupiter (WCS Fiji’s Director) and Sirilo Dulanaqio (Community Liaison Officer) attended the ceremony on behalf of WCS Fiji.
We feel very privileged to have worked with the dedicated and enthusiastic people of Wainunu over the last 2 years: first we gathered biological and socio-economic data, then we facilitated the identification of the protected areas through a series of community workshops and consultations. We have supported the villages to form a resource management committee which is now responsible for implementing the new ecosystem-based management plan for the district. The actions laid out in this plan are designed to boost the health of the forests, rivers and reefs upon which the people of Wainunu depend and which contribute to the incredible diversity of the Vatu-i-Ra Seascape.
You can find more photos of the launch event on our Facebook page at this link, and a description of the event in this Fiji Times article. You download the full Wainunu Ecosystem-based Management Plan from tinyurl.com/WainunuEBMPlan.
This project was kindly supported by grants from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (US Department of Commerce), and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.