Inspired by kuta-weaving women

On the 18th of November Ged and I departed Nausori airport for Labasa to conduct kuta weaving training sessions in Bua and Cakaudrove. I have been really excited about this project, which hopes to revive the traditional Buan craft of making mats from Eleocharis dulcis, the freshwater reed known locally as kuta. It will also help women to generate income for their families and communities, reducing the pressures that contribute to unsustainable fishing, farming and logging practices.

The main objectives of the workshops were:

  • to enhance kuta-weaving skills amongst local women
  • to encourage women to pass on their kuta weaving skills within communities
  • to explore opportunities for a co-operative to generate and manage income
  • to raise awareness about good practice in managing kuta plantations

At our first workshop, the participants were mostly young mothers from the districts of Lekutu, Nadi and Solevu. They were keen to establish an alternative source of income and had good access to kuta growing in nearby villages.

It got even better at the next workshop at Namalata in Kubulau, where the ladies had organized the men to cook and serve all the meals!  This let them focus on the weaving and the results were really impressive.   Some young mothers even brought their children to the community hall – they were so determined to finish their mats by the end of the 2nd day.

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Our third workshop in Valeni was for the ladies of Wailevu district (in Cakaudrove) and showed that weaving skills are not confined only to Bua.  As we reached Savusavu at the end of a wonderful week I was even more positive that this project will take off. It had been great to see women of different ages and from different communities working together for a common cause.  They were so talented and grasped everything really quickly.

I texted a special thanks to our specialist trainer Edith Whippy, who not only taught the weaving techniques but motivated us all with her own story. Kuta mats are now Edith’s major source of income, so she told the ladies that if she can do it – so can they!

I even got a round kuta mat of my own (thanks Edith) and am looking forward to seeing the ladies make their first sales in 2013. Vinaka vakalevu to the Flora Family Foundation and Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund for supporting this work.

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!

Surveying the sea cucumbers of Kubulau

Recently I was part of a team of researchers that went to Kubulau to receive sea cucumber survey training, conducted by Mr Kalo of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community. The team included nine Fisheries officers from all four corners of Fiji (Western, Central, Northern and Eastern Divisions), as well as three staff from the NGO Partners in Community Development Fund.

Community-managed tabu areas and district MPAs in Kubulau

The team surveyed 57 stations with different methods: manta tows, transects on reef benthos and transects on soft bottom habitats. Each method was carried out both inside community-managed marine protected areas (tabu areas) and in open access areas.

The surveys covered the marine protected areas of Nakali, Namuri, Nasue, Cakau Vusoni and Dromoninuku – the new tabu area established this year, belonging to Navatu village. Open access areas surveyed were the reefs in between Namuri and Nasue marine protected areas, and in front of Waisa village down to Kiobo village, and from Waisa north to Nadivakarua Bay. Unfortunately we were not able to go to the famous Namena MPA due to bad weather.

 

Of the 24 commercially harvested species of sea cucumber present in Fiji, 18 were found in Kubulau during this survey. Previous surveys conducted by WCS Fiji have recorded 14 of these sea cucumber species, so we were happy to add four new species for Kubulau to the records.

Curryfish (Stichopus variegatus) in its shallow water habitat.

There were not many differences between marine protected areas versus open access areas – in some cases there were in fact larger numbers of sea cucumbers recorded outside the protected areas than inside (Holothurius atra, Lollyfish). For the high value species, we recorded only one White teatfish (Holothuria fuscogilva) and few Stonefish (Actinopyga lecanora) during the day. However there were more high value species recorded in Navatu when we visited the buyer. These high value species were caught during the night. Long-handled spears were used to catch bigger ones in the deep, as clearly explained by the local fishermen.

 

It has been mentioned that Crown of Thorns starfish populations might be increasing in Kubulau; we did observe Crown of Thorns during the survey but I personally think that the numbers were much lower than previously recorded by WCS Fiji’s surveys in neighbouring Wailevu district in 2011, where the damage has been more serious.

Actinopyga lecanora, or stonefish – a high value nocturnal species of sea cucumber

Raw data were presented back to the Turaga ni Yavusas (spokesmen for the tribes in the area) during the talanoa session, as requested by the Chairman of the Kubulau Resource Management Committee. These data were also made available to partner organisations as part of a national consultation process on Fiji’s National Sea Cucumber Fishery, together with some community recommendations about sea cucumber harvesting. The export value of sea cucumbers from Fiji is currently estimated at F$22 million annually (~US$12.4 million).

 

 

Give coral reefs a chance

It was a pleasure conducting the reef resilience “Training of Trainers” workshop in Suva in February. As a part of the outcomes of the training, and requests from participants, WCS Fiji has developed community-friendly posters on:

1. Spotting signs of stress on your reef

2. Considerations for a resilient marine protected area

Please get in touch through infofiji@wcs.org if you would like copies of these posters to help your community better manage their marine resources!

This project was kindly supported by grants from The Nature Conservancy and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (US Department of Commerce).

                                             

 

New Fish Wardens for 2012

In order to maintain sustainable resources for future generations in the Provinces of Cakaudrove and Bua in Vanua Levu, the communities of Wailevu, Wainunu, Nadi and Solevu have selected some members of their communities to be trained as fish wardens. These fish wardens will be empowered to see that their resources are use in an appropriate way.

This project was kindly supported by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two 3-day training sessions for the 2012 fish wardens were held: first in Natuvu, Wailevu district, and then in Navatu, Kubulau district. The training in Wailevu was officially opened by the Provincial Administrator Mr Uraia Rainima, and the Roko Tui Cakaudrove Ro Aca Mataitinihad was our chief guest who gave the certificates to the participants on the final day of the training and also officially closed the training.

There were 42 participants that attended the training in Natuvu, 30 participants were from the district of Wailevu and 12 participants were from the neighbouring districts of Somosomo, Saqani, Nakomo, Nanuca and Lekutu. WCS Fiji’s Waisea Naisilisili and Sirilo Dulunaqio were delighted to receive the training to become fish wardens themselves. In Navatu there were 27 participants, 15 from Kubulau and 12 from the neighbouring districts of Wainunu, Nadi and Solevu.

The Kubulau fish warden training was officially opened by Tomasi Cama; in his opening speech he addressed the importance of our connection to our environment through our totem fish, plants and animals. The fish warden training was conducted by Joji Vakawaletabua (Fisheries Department Nasavusavu), Tomasi Cama (Fisheries Department Bua), Nanise Kuridrani Tuqiri and Epeli Tawake (Fisheries Department Labasa) and a police officer from Nasavusavu.

To end the workshop on a positive note, on the final day of the training we managed to tag a male Hawksbill turtle and the participants named it Tui Navatu. Tui Navatu was tagged and released by the two heads of the tribe (yavusa) in Navatu, as the participants looked on. This was a memorable day as we also celebrated the reef enrichment initiative which was launched in April. The training in Kubulau was officially closed by Joji, who reminded us that we are inter-dependent with the environment: we depend on our resources and our resources depend on us.