Protect Natural Resources - Revisit Traditional Practices
This woman extraordinaire lives at Nawaikama village on Gau Island in the Lomaiviti province.
The World Bank Report of 1991 states that ‘‘women play an essential role in the management of natural resources, including soil, water, forests and energy...and often have a profound traditional and contemporary knowledge of the natural world around them.’
On Gau island women like Camama have a close kinship with their natural resources. They weave mats out of pandanus leaves which they sell to schools and in urban markets, they value add coconuts and they fish and farm the land, to eke a living and support their families.
The value they place on natural resource is high for their very survival depends on its abundance. Camama joined men folk and fellow women of Sawaieke District on the island to set up a network of protected areas – marine, terrestrial and freshwater – to ensure their source remains abundant for many generations to come.
The workshops organised by WWF South Pacific at Vadravadra village in September also focused on the importance of safeguarding traditional knowledge in sustainable resource management.
Traditional weaving skills and knowledge about coconut value adding helps them to diversify their income source and not rely heavily on reaping an income from just fishing.
Thirty year old Camama, formerly a cooking tutor at Malolo Lailai island resort, opened her shop at Nawaikama village, vending groceries.
“This is another way I earn an income and support my child and my parents,” she said.
“I am very passionate about the environment and feel sad to see the many adverse changes in the environment even in my villages, burning of forests and so forth,” she said.
“But I believe women must get involved in issues about the environment because we are naturally good managers and most of our work at home is about managing resources, we are smarter at handling household stocks and keeping it in supply for stretches of time.
What Mariama believes is “we can plant more panadus (voi voi) tree to weave mats to be sold in the schools and places outside the village. This way we are not only using our resources wisely but also helping in generating income for our family and the village as a whole”
“In this way we address overfishing, which is also one of the major topics covered during the workshops, which represents a serious threat to our fish stocks.
She commented on the importance of mangroves in protecting their coastal areas which also serves as a habitat for many marine species.
‘It’s not just the men’s job to protect all these resources, it’s more important a woman’s duty as well for we nurture and feed our families and our resources need to remain abundant,” she said.
Camama’s face radiated her passion for her island home and rich resources and the need to keep it that way.
“I always thought my village needs me more. When I was working in the city I always imagined opening a store in my village so that my people can also be provided with goods they need with much ease. And now that I’m here I realise the importance of women also working hard to protect our natural resources.
“We must revisit our traditional knowledge of income generation like mat weaving and earnestly pursue it, keep it alive so that we continue to enjoy the abundance of our natural resources.
“The people in the village would like to keep the standards of our Yaubula high by bringing together the laws of the districts in order to respect the tabu areas (protected areas) like qoliqoli and women have an important role to play.”