Somosomo, Taveuni – Fiji’s third largest island, Taveuni, is launching a campaign to restore its reputation as the ‘Garden Island’ of Fiji.
The Wakatu Taveuni campaign encourages the island’s leaders and communities to take action to address the causes of ecosystem degradation and to invest in more ecologically sustainable forms of land use.
The campaign was launched this morning in Welagi village by the iTaukei Land Trust Board General Manager of the Northern Division Mr Josaia Waqatairewa together with Welagi’s Reforestation to Degraded Forests project, a first ever for Taveuni.
In his opening address, Mr Waqatairewa acknowledged the important role played by the island’s rich and diverse ecosystems in helping develop Taveuni’s economy. However it was concerning to note that the condition of many of these ecosystems was in decline as a result of poor environmental stewardship over the years. This in turn posed a threat to the future development of the island and the resilience of its people.
“The removal of trees to clear new land for cultivation continues to take place at an alarming rate and as a result some parts of the island are now experiencing droughts and water shortages. Bush fires and over-use of agricultural inputs such as fertlisers, herbicides and pesticides are also impacting negatively on the island’s ecology and unique biodiversity” Mr Waqatairewa said.
“Clearly, we need to re-examine our agricultural and other practices that are impacting on the island’s ecosystems.
“Wakatu has been designed to help you to better understand how your actions impact on the environment and the things you need to do to protect your environment for present and future generations,” Mr Waqatairewa added.
“Government will be there to support you but at the end of the day the future of your island is in your hands.”
A key feature of the Wakatu Taveuni campaign is the training and equipping of a network of local champions to foster dialogue and motivate others for more sustainable use of natural resources in Taveuni.
In conjunction with the campaign launch, cChange, a regional communications NGO, is conducting a ‘train the trainer’ workshop in Somosomo for 30 participants from Cakaudrove, Vuna and Wainikeli districts.
Ratu Jone Lewenilovo of Somosomo village, Cakaudrove is a participant at the workshop and is inspired to be a champion for Wakatu Taveuni.
“I am saddened by the state of our environment on the island. Our streams are drying up, water levels in our rivers are dropping and the island is very dry. We must stop the cutting down of our native forests.”
“Through the workshop, I now realise how important it is to take care of our environment to continue to enjoy its blessings and as a chief I am motivated to take this message to my people. We must take the steps now for change.”
The Wakatu Taveuni campaign is supported by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) through the Pacific Ecosystem-based Adaptation to Climate Change Project (PEBACC) in partnership with the Ministries of Environment, Economy, Forests, Agriculture, iTaukei Affairs, FAO, and cChange.
“This campaign is designed to get people to reflect on the negative impacts their actions are having on the environment and how their present and future well-being is being compromised as a result. It will also help them identify things that they can do to place Taveuni on a more sustainable development pathway, which is especially important in the context of climate change. ” Mr Herman Timmermans, PEBACC Project Manager said.
“We are encouraged by the positive response to the campaign thus far and we are grateful to celebrities like professional rugby player, Semi Radradra, who is using his influence and reputation to spread the Wakatu Taveuni message as the campaign’s first champion.” Mr Timmermans added.
Wakatu Taveuni is part of a national Wakatu Fiji campaign that was developed in 2016 by cChange, a Fiji based communications organization with support from FAO to promote actions at all levels in Fiji to sustainably use land and forests, and ensure communities continue to benefit from healthy natural resources.
For further information please contact:
Mrs Amelia Waqanibeqa, Divisional Forestry Officer North, Ministry of Forests on email: [email protected]
Ms. Jilda Shem, PEBACC Communications Officer, [email protected] or +679 9370165
Ms. Alumeci Nakeke, Communications Officer and Trainer, alu[email protected] or +678 3313151