Kilaka Forest Conservation Area


Freshwater streams flowing through Kilaka Forest

The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has worked with the communities of Kubulau District, Bua Province, for over 10 years and has developed a strong working relationship with the Nadicake mataqali (clan) from Kilaka village that holds land tenure over the Kilaka forest.

In 2006, the clan made a commitment to protect the forest on the land parcel over which they hold tenure for at least 10 years. Although not legally binding, this commitment included a promise not to lease the land for logging. In 2009 the management of this community-managed forest park was incorporated into the Kubulau District EBM plan. Although the forest area is a national priority for conservation, there is considerable and growing pressure to log the forest.

Freshwater prawns collected from streams in Kilaka Forest


Working with the i-Taukei Land Trust Board and the Nadicake mataqali, WCS is exploring options and opportunities to establish a forest conservation area over 402 ha of native forest. Protection of the forest would insure the intactness of the forest for future generations, maintenance of clean drinking water, protection of coastal reefs, and provision of a sustainable stream of revenue to landowners.

Words by Sangeeta Mangubhai and images by Ruci Lumelume (top) and Kini Koto (bottom)


Adapting to climate change: learning from our neighbours in Vanuatu

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.

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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!

Sharing traditional Fijian weaving skills

Mrs Edith Whippy and her beautiful round kuta mat

Edith Whippy is a skilled lady. She is capable of weaving all kinds of mats from kuta (Water chestnut, Eleocharis dulcis), but she loves most of all to make round kuta mats. Usually she collects kuta from Muanicula estate which is just down the road from where she lives. When she travels there by boat to collect the stems and she used to pay F$20 per day, but these now with the high demand for kuta the cost has increased to F$30 a day. Kuta harvesting is a job for all the family – the Whippys set off at 8am to make the trip worthwhile, and spend the day wading in knee-deep water to cut the plants.

At times Edith has to go to Kasavu village to collect kuta, a long journey past Savusavu town, and she is charged F$400 for the return trip which she shares with the other women. The longer you keep dried kuta the better it is, because it softens and becomes easier to use – often it is kept under the mattress to keep the brittle stems soft. Kuta weaving is done only on rainy days or in cooler weather since it tends to break if woven during hot, sunny periods.

Edith’s grandmother taught her the skills of weaving round kuta mats and she has been doing this since 1982 when she married Mr Whippy. Her mats are usually made to order from friends and relatives, providing her main source of income. Round kuta mats are generally charged by hand-span; at around $10 for every hand-span the mats can provide a good alternative livelihood for women. At the same time kuta weaving benefits the environment and local communities: by giving a solid reason to protect the important wetland habitats in which kuta thrives, essential ecosystem services such as clean water will continue to be enjoyed by the nearby villages.

“I conducted training in Natokalau and Dawara villages [in Kubulau and Wailevu districts respectively] last year [2012]. I could see the passion in the ladies to learn the weaving skills quickly, but most of them who came had their small children with them, which made it hard for them to learn as a lot of time was spent attending to the little ones”, said Edith. She is willing to help other women by sharing her special skills and experience from 30 years of weaving round kuta mats, making sure this tradition does not slip away. This will be made possible as part of a WCS Fiji project in Bua and Cakaudrove provinces, which will establish a cooperative selling round kuta mats, therefore giving communities a reason to maintain and manage their precious kuta wetland habitats.

This project is kindly supported by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), a joint program of l’Agence Française de Développement, Conservation International, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the World Bank.

Environmental planning at provincial level in Macuata

Communities, government departments, NGOs and the private sector came together on 22-24 August in a significant step towards a natural resource management plan for Macuata province.

Hosted by Macuata Provincial Office with support from WWF, the planning workshop took place at the Civic Centre in the provincial town of Labasa in the north of Vanua Levu, Fiji’s second largest island. Macuata is one of 14 provinces and contains some of Fiji’s most intact ecosystems (from Welewara to Udu Point in the north-west) as well as some the most degraded (Qawa river catchment and around Wainikoro). Macuata’s customary fishing grounds include part of the Great Sea Reef, the third largest coral reef ecosystem in the world.

Stakeholders explored a wide range of issues; establishing a vision, identifying priority areas and drafting a structure for natural resource management. They outlined a key role for the Provincial Office, district environment committees and traditional leaders to link community, district (tikina) and provincial activities. They formed management recommendations for the Great Sea Reef (initially to undertake research and establish a network of marine protected areas, MPAs) and mapped out a wide range of existing and proposed priority areas for conservation.

Stakeholders mapping conservation areas during the workshop

Presentations on national and provincial strategies highlighted economic development plans emerging from the government’s Look North Policy, such as Bauxite mining at Dreketi and a new international port in next few years. The stream of trucks taking cane through town to the mill each night reminded us that sugar has shaped the local landscape and economy. During the workshop ANZ bank announced a $120million loan to Fiji Sugar Corporation. As that industry redefines itself, it was particularly good to see its representatives involved in discussions on how Macuata’s ecosystems can be sustainably managed for future generations.

Deputy Permanent Secretary for i-Taukei Affairs Colonel Apakuki Kurusiga, participating in the workshop, noted that “Macuata is the first province to start management planning on this scale, setting a great example for other provinces to ensure that provincial development and sustainability go hand in hand”. With that in mind, the Macuata process provides valuable lessons for upscaling natural resource managment planning in Fiji. We hope these can be applied in other provinces, and particularly towards WCS Fiji’s forthcoming involvement in Integrated Coastal Management planning in the neighbouring province of Bua.

Integrated coastal management for Vatu-i-Ra Seascape

Integrated Coastal Management will bring benefits for the stunning reefs of Fiji's Vatu-i-Ra Seascape.

WCS Fiji is gearing up for an Integrated Coastal Management (ICM) project in Fiji’s Bua Province. This will complement a parallel project which is already up and running across the waves of Bligh Water. Ra Province, on the northern tip of Viti Levu, faces Bua from the opposite side of the Vatu-i-Ra Seascape. Ra has embraced the ridge-to-reef approach, and become a demonstration site for provincial-level ICM. As well as drawing up an ICM plan for Ra Province, a Fiji Government project will support a national ICM Committee to develop a national plan. The Ra model will also provide a framework on which other provinces can build their own ICM plans.

National, provincial and local stakeholders from Ra have been finding out about existing plans for development and natural resource management in Ra, to make decisions about how these plans can be brought together under the umbrella of ICM for Ra. This Fiji ICM project will run from 2011-2015 and is part of a wider suite of work to ensure future food security, under the Pacific Coral Triangle Initiative. Other countries involved are PNG, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Timor Leste. Funders include the Asian Development Bank (ADB) Global Environment Fund (GEF), USAID and AusAID.