WWF-Pacific announces launch of ‘Living with Change: Resilient Mangroves, Fisheries & People of Fiji and PNG’ Project
The “Living with Change: Resilient Mangroves, Fisheries & People of Fiji and PNG” project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and WWF-Germany.
The project will address issues that communities in the projects sites face stemming from a lack of understanding about the intricate link between depletion of natural resources through unsustainable exploitation and exacerbated by severity of climate change impacts, specifically rising sea levels and increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters. As a result, communities continue to extract their natural resources in an unsustainable manner thus depleting the source of their livelihoods.
“The Project provides an opportunity to build the resiliency of these coastal communities in Fiji and PNG by focusing and protecting key coastal habitats, building community capacity to sustainably manage their own resources as well as focusing on these critical ecosystems and ensuring that they have the right governance structures, skills, capacity and funding to actually continue and implement the planned activities under the project within its cycle and beyond,” said WWF-Pacific’s Policy Officer, Alfred Ralifo.
In Fiji, the Project will be implemented in the Tavua, Nailaga and Nacula districts of the Ba Province. The districts comprise 22 villages and a population of 6,600. Similarly in Papua New Guinea, the project will be implemented in the Sumkar, Bogia and Madang districts of the Madang Province. The districts comprise 34 villages and a population of 6,900.
Mr Ralifo, who is also managing the Fiji part of the German funded Project said that work within the three districts in Fiji will be building on the work WWF-Pacific Fiji Office has undertaken with the communities in the past four years with a specific focus on mangroves as a critical ecosystem, working with the communities to map out their mangrove areas within their district, and exploring opportunities to establish mangrove protected areas and improving livelihoods
“We will work with Government to consider their national policies on mangrove ecosystems to support mangrove conservation, rehabilitation, restoration because mangrove ecosystems are key habitats for the filtering of sediments in protecting coral reefs, and are usually ignored, the first targeted for development and reclamation when urban areas are expanding,” said Mr. Ralifo.
The three year project will also see WWF-Pacific Fiji Office; champion other critical issues with these communities Mr Ralifo said, “We will be working with the districts to develop their own sustainable district development plans, wherein the communities can identify their needs, in terms of what they would like to see in the future in regards to education, village infrastructure, transport, energy, health and well-being, agriculture, forestry, food economic activity and livelihoods. These communities are in the Western division where there is a lot of high tourism potential so we would like to work with them on this aspect.”
Mr. Ralifo said that WWF takes a holistic approach in working with communities, “Staff will work with the district development committees to strengthen their committee structures and build leadership, transparency, financial capacity enabling them to implement their district development plans. The communities will also develop their disaster action plans to prepare for, during and recovery from natural disasters.”
"Management of fisheries is an essential component of the Project. The communities are located in the Great Sea Reef region which contributes the bulk of fish that is consumed in urban centres, “The communities rely heavily on their fisheries resource, and we will be building their capacity to collect fish spawning potential recruitment data that will inform their fisheries management plans,” said Mr. Ralifo.
In Papua New Guinea, WWF-Pacific PNG’s Coastal Marine Officer Rebecca Samuel said the Project will complement their work with communities on disaster risk reduction, mangrove conservation to mitigating climate change impacts and managing fisheries.
“Madang Province coastal & ocean region is highlighted as part of the Bismarck Sea Ecoregion area that has a high biodiversity, majority of the Province’s communities living are coastal dwellers and rely on the marine environment for their livelihood, The Province is a natural disaster prone area due to volcanic eruptions and recently two seasons of El Nino which caused long periods of dry weather,” said Ms. Samuel.
Ms. Samuel said the WWF-Pacific PNG team will be working closely with the national and provincial governments to implement the Project.
On completion of the Project in 2020, Mr Ralifo said it would have accomplished outcomes that could be sustained by the communities, “They should be able to make their own decisions on protecting and managing their critical ecosystems, using sound governance and leadership skills . They will also have technical skills in sustainable fisheries management, mangrove management and food security. This will potentially lead to improved standards of living, reducing poverty and ensuring that the natural resources they depend on is sustainable and will continue to provide for them in the future.”