Women find sustainable, alternative livelihoods in Fiji

Women find sustainable, alternative livelihoods in Fiji

Dried kuta stems ready for weaving in Nabalebale village, Cakaudrove Province, Fiji.

WCS Fiji has just received funding to develop sustainable, alternative sources of livelihood in Bua and Cakaudrove Provinces of Fiji. We were very excited to choose weaving round kuta mats as a central part of this project. Kuta is the water chestnut, Eleocharis dulcis. We feel that there is a need to take up the challenge on kuta weaving since traditional knowledge is slowly slipping away – this would be a significant loss to future generations who are ignorant of the value of this tradition. This project is a chance to revive these skills, preserve this knowledge and retain part of the identity for women from Bua and Cakaudrove who are renowned for their skills in kuta weaving. At the same time the project will create essential opportunities for women to generate additional income within their communities.

Kuta is a sedge, which resembles a tall, cylindrical grass, and inhabits lowlands and marshlands. The ‘chestnuts’ that give this marsh plant its name are not actually nuts, but the swollen underground stems that acts as a storage organ for the plant. In Bua and Cakaudrove, the stems are harvested, dried, and woven into soft sleeping mats, decorative round mats or traditional funeral waist mats (ta’ovala kuta) sold to Tongan people.

Unfortunately, viable habitats that support kuta are now under increasing threat from anthropogenic activities and climate change. The protection of wetlands and marshlands is important to ensure the survival of species like the water chestnut. Establishing kuta weaving cooperatives will give an economic value to these threatened wetland areas which are so important for biodiversity. This economic value will therefore give communities a concrete reason to preserve and manage these areas into the future.

With the help of Partners in Community Development Fiji (PCDF) and WWF one of our staff will be visiting  the districts of Wailevu East and West, Kubulau, Wainunu, Nadi and Solevu to collect information on kuta weaving. PCDF has already conducted training on kuta weaving in early 2011, when they taught some of the ladies in the district of Wailevu and Kubulau to weave round kuta mats. Cross-site visits and to share knowledge will be an important part of the project, since the weaving skills differ across the districts. It may be possible for villages to sell their kuta to weavers in other villages. We expect to have the first sales of kuta mats before the end of the year!

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.

Fiji communities cross boundaries for conservation in Cakaudrove

Mapping proposed protected area locations for Nakawaga.

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”.

Ecosystem-Based Management is taking shape in Nadi and Solevu

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.

Participants at a workshop in Nadi devise management rules for their terrestrial & marine protected areas.

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.”

Children of Solveu will reap the benefits of the new protected area network.

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.

Ecotourism thrives in Bagata village, Fiji

The village of Bagata is in Wailevu district of Cakaudrove – the province which occupies the eastern side of Fiji’s second largest island, Vanua Levu. Bagata is only a 30 minute drive from Savusavu town, and is sheltered by mountains and hills. WCS’s Sirilo Dulunaqio (aka Didi) recently had the chance to talk to a man from Bagata who is behind a new initiative that will have many benefits for the people of the village. This is what he reported in our Community Bulletin newsletter this month….

The discussion of setting up a Village Eco Tour started in November 2011 and it materialised in January 2012. The Village Eco Tour helps tourists and understand the whole ecosystem including human beings and their various functions, and the communities get to showcase their traditional way of living and culture. At the moment there are 2 regular customers: Rosie Tours of Nadi and the Namale Resort and Spa – the latter comes in every Thursday to do a Village Eco Tour.

“The women of Bagata find this an opportunity to sell their handicrafts made from all the available resources around them, and this is an alternative livelihood for them”, says Bagata’s Environment Committee Chairman, Mr Vilimone Tulevu.

Beyond the Village Eco Tour there are 3 other sites in development: Magic Waterfall, Rock Pool Bathing and Hot Spring. Also they are proposing to have an Evening Village Tour so tourists get to see what a normal Fijian village evening is like. All money collected from the Village Eco Tour goes directly to a scholarship fund that the children of Bagata will access in 2014.

Mr Tulevu says that Bagata village is having discussions with Telecom Fiji and Vodafone Fiji to set up an Information Centre. “As part of our main objective we are thinking of expanding the Village Eco Tour and tapping into other organisations or government ministries that can help with this project for the benefit of the future generation of Bagata Village”, says Mr Tulevu.

 
 
 
 
 
 

Photo credits: Namale Resort and Spa

 
 
 
 
 

Wailevu communities moving forward together

Communities in Wailevu came together in April to finalise plans promoting sustainable use and conservation of their natural resources.

Wailevu is siituated in the province of Cakaudrove in Vanua Levu. Consisting of 30 villages and significant settlements, it is geographically the largest district in Fiji. Well known for farming dalo and yaqona, the district is also home to Waisali Forest Reserve, the Mount Kasi gold mine, an established pearl farm and a range of community eco-tourism sites.

Building on the success of Ecosystem-Based Management (EBM) in neighbouring Kubulau, WCS Fiji is supporting Wailevu communities to develop a collaborative plan through which to protect local habitats, promote sustainable resource management and enhance quality of life.

The plan will be implemented and monitored by a Resource Management Committee in Wailevu West and another in the East of the district. “It is good to see such strong support from all the villages. With the backing of our Chiefs, we have been working together to identify tabu areas and management rules that will preserve our resources for future generations” stated Timoci Rokosuli, Chairman of the Wailevu West Resource Management Committee. “We thank WCS for their support and look forward to working together for the benefit of Wailevu”.

A range of stakeholders have also been involved in developing the plans. Jone Vakamino from the Cakaudrove Yaubula Management Support Team said he had attended several workshops in the past six months. “The Roko Tui has seen the value of this work and the Provincial Council is actively supportive”, he stated “the communities are taking responsibility to ensure a healthy environment. This can also benefit them economically, with potential for ecotourism projects like the one that is growing in Bagata”.

EBM fuses scientific principles with local and traditional ecological knowledge to promote sustainable management of terrestrial, freshwater, estuarine, coastal and marine habitats. It aims to maintain healthy, productive and resilient ecosystems that can overcome pressure from population growth and climate change to meet the needs of future generations.