Ba communities committed to protecting water catchment
Support towards their commitment, is the focus of the Fiji Global Environmental Facility 5 Star Ridge to Reef
(R2R) management of priority water catchments project for the two main islands of Vitilevu and Vanualevu which focuses on improved collaboration amongst resource owners and stakeholders towards identifying critical gaps and needs in biodiversity conservation for marine and land ecosystems.
At a recent three day workshop organised by by the World Wide Fund for Nature, a 103 community representatives from the districts of Nalotawa, Naloto, Qaliyalatina were provided with detailed discussions on the effects of deforestation and poor watershed management and the importance of better managing the health of their rivers and streams.
"We are experiencing alot of changes to our weather patterns in Nalotawa especially the heat, which is unusual in these parts and is due to cutting of trees, there has been alot of cutting of pine trees and a slow rate of replanting pine which contributes to the heat, we are experiencing," said Suliana Waqatabu.
"Previously,we use to experience cool breeze and this could be felt in our homes but things have all changed, because we feel hot and bothered,we also notice changes to our rivers and streams, our elders would tell us of streams teeming with local fresh water fish but today when we go and fish, its very difficult to find any fish in our streams, it's probably from the use poisonous vines (duva) to catch fish," she added.
WWF-Pacific Community Development officer Metui Tokece highlighted that the villagers of the three districts (Nalotawa, Naloto Qaliyalatina) had drafter their community conservation plans whic.h entails the challenges they currently face and the best practical solutions to protect and sustain their resources.
He adds that there conservation action plans will be linked to the Ba water catchment management plan.
"From these workshops, we are trying to get as much information from resource owners who are living within the Ba water catchment to develop a management plan which will be their guide to protect, restore and sustainably use their natural resources," Tokece said.
Fiji Ridge to Reef Project Coordinator for Vitilevu Noa Vakacegu adds that the exchange of information with resource owners has been beneficial to the stakeholders in understanding the issues faced at community level.
"What we really want to do now is to get their traditional knowledge on how they do things, so we can integrate that with scientific findings from the University of the South Pacific and other implementing partners and develop a management plan that will work within their environment," Vakacegu added.
"From the responses I get, I notice that villagers agree that there's quite alot of damage done to their enviroment due to development that has been carried out within the Ba water catchment, especially the unsustainable logging, overfishing and other activities which has resulted in the degradation of their forests and rivers," he said.
Similar sentiments were also expressed by Alisi Naqarasiga of Nanuku village who highlighted that villagers need to take some form of responsibility towards the protection of their environment.
" We should not blame anyone else except ourselves and I feel responsible because I have also cut trees irresponsibly and also burnt trees and this has contributed to the problems that we face today, the workshop has been empowering and I would like to thank the stakeholders for the knowledge sharing sessions, useful discussions which has given us new ideas to help prevent further degradation of our natural resources and enable us to becoming proactive community representatives in our villagers and disctricts," she said.
This activity is funded by the Global Environment Facility(GEF) Trust Fund and is implemented through United Nations Development Programme and the Fijian Government through the Ministry of Watersways and Environment.
Partners working on the implementation include the Ministry of Fisheries, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of I Taukei Affairs, Ministry of Forestry, Ba Provincial Office,Fiji Locally Managed Marine Area, the University of the South Pacific's Institute of Applied Sciences, Conservation International, Nature Fiji-Mareqeti Viti and WWF.
The ultimate outcome of the project is to preserve biodiversity, ecosystem service, sequester carbon improve climate resilience and sustain livelihoods through a Ridge to Reef management of priority watersheds in the two main islands of Fiji.