Leaders Back Ecosystem Shelter
Workshop unveils negative impacts of unsustainable development and farming practices on garden isle of Fiji
Traditional leaders on the island of Taveuni in Fiji are discussing ways to restore and protect their natural ecosystems as a viable way forward for their island. At a multi-community workshop was held on: ‘Natural solutions to Climate Change’ in Somosomo Village organised by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP). This is through its Pacific Ecosystem-based Adaptation to Climate Change Project (PEBACC). The leaders recognised the importance of using natural solutions to curb climate change and the negative impacts of unsustainable development and farming practices on the island. Ratu Jone Ganilau of the Mataqali Valelevu (Ai Sokula) clan and the representative of the Turaga Bale na Tui Cakau, Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu said: “This is long overdue. We must now reforest the island and go back to organic farming to maintain our environment for future generations. “Excessive chemical use in farming for monetary gain and chopping down of trees right up to the mountains have impacted negatively on the environment. “We have concerns for our water table and also salinity in the soil has become a problem resulting in smaller dalo (taro) yields.”
Traditional conservationist and co-ordinator of Bouma National Heritage Park on Taveuni, Sipiriano Qeteqete agreed. Mr Qeteqete said Taveuni was earning up to $20 million annually from dalo exports but the figure had dropped dramatically recently.
“In the past, the boats would ship up to ten trucks full of dalo to Suva per shipment. Today, we can’t even reach that number and the trucks go half empty,” Mr Qeteqete said.
“When dalo planting for export was first introduced, earning money was the priority without consideration of the impacts on the environment. “Trees were cut down and chemicals were used.”
Reforestation particularly coconut planting, streamside and shoreline planting and creating buffer zones along the rivers are some immediate next steps for the work on the island. The three-day workshop this week was an initial get together of community leaders on Taveuni Island and is part of an Ecosystem Resilience, Analysis and Mapping (ESRAM) study for Fiji. It was commissioned by SPREP through the PEBACC project, and led by Watershed Professionals Network (WPN). An ESRAM study is a mapping an analysis of social economic resilience to climate change associated with goods and services provided by ecosystems. Project manager of the SPREP PEBACC Project, Herman Timmermans is thrilled that the traditional leaders are taking a lead role in driving the natural solutions to climate change approach on Taveuni. “I am very pleased with the positive way PEBACC has been received by the traditional leaders in Taveuni,” Mr Timmermans said. “Their support provides a strong foundation to carry the project forward. “We look forward to strengthening our relationship in ensuring effective implementation of Ecosystem based Adaptation (EbA) activities in the ‘garden island.” Chris Heider of Watersheds Professionals Network reflects that: “This is an important time for the people of Taveuni. “There is a new and unified resurgence in ridge-to-reef management that fuses both the long-standing traditional values and practices with the modern realities of the 21st Century. “There is clear momentum and a broader understanding of how ecosystems function, where strengths and weaknesses exist on the landscape, and a willingness to work toward strengthening communities.” The findings of the ESRAM study will guide the implementation of the PEBACC project in Fiji. The PEBACC is a five-year project funded by the German government. It is implemented by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) in partnership with the governments of Fiji, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. The Project focuses on strengthening and protecting the role of natural ecosystem services to enhance resilience to climate change.
In Fiji the project sites are Taveuni Island and the Macuata Province. Source: Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme
Participants of the SPREP workshop on ‘Natural Solutions to Climate Change’.
Families rely on the ecosystems for their livelihoods. This is in Somosomo Village, Taveuni.