Taveuni traditional leaders preparing for a boat trip to a project site in Kadavu as part of the exchange programme this month.
Island and Ocean Ecosystems

An exchange programme in Fiji for Taveuni and Kadavu traditional leaders has proven a huge success in encouraging sharing and learning about sustainable development and planning issues at the island level. The exchange was organised to better equip them to integrate environmental management into their respective development planning processes.

Supported by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) through the Pacific Ecosystem-based Adaptation to Climate Change Project (PEBACC) project, the Restoration of Ecosystem Services and Adaptation to Climate Change (RESCCUE) Fiji project of the Pacific Community (SPC) and coordinated by the Institute of Applied Sciences of the University of the South Pacific (USP), the exchange programme provided an opportunity for stakeholders from both islands to benefit from direct exposure to each other’s initiatives.

Mr Herman Timmermans, Project Manager of SPREP’s PEBACC project, explained that “as the third and fourth largest islands in Fiji, Taveuni and Kadavu share similar geographic scales, cultural organisation, governance, and economies. They also experience similar problems with regard to the impacts of agriculture (subsistence and cash crop) on the health and well-being of terrestrial and marine ecosystems.”

“Of particular relevance is the cultivation of yaqona with Kadavu and Taveuni being the primary supply areas of this popular crop in Fiji. Shortages in the availability of yaqona following the damage caused by cyclone Winston in 2016, has led to a highly inflated market price. As a result there is a strong financial incentive for farmers to increase the size of their yaqona holdings, often at the expense of native forest which is cleared in the process.”

“There has also been an over-use of fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides, with Taveuni being more heavily impacted as a result of its history as the primary producer of taro for the export market.”

“We are trying to encourage the land owners and resource managers in Taveuni to strengthen the systems of land management, to reduce the negative impacts that agricultural activities are having on land, the forests, the soil and the biodiversity.”

“The best way to explain to the people is for them to see it with their own eyes and in my experience that is one of the most effective ways to encourage learning.”

“So this exchange with Kadavu is important because the delegation from Taveuni are getting to see and learn that Kadavu’s traditional way of life and farming is more intact.” Mr Timmermans said.

For the Kadavu participants, RESCCUE’s Project Manager, Isoa Korovulavula highlighted that “the exchange provided information and lessons that are unknown to the Kadavu partners that came to Taveuni.”

“In terms of communal traditional farming practices that Kadavu still has, and moving forward without the use of chemicals, will actually help the farmers of Taveuni . The RESCCUE project is promoting organic yaqona farming in Kadavu, something farmers from Taveuni came to see and appreciate.”

“There are differences that made the participants of the two islands realize the balance between profitability and protecting the environment.”

Chairman of the Kadavu Provincial Council, Mr Malakai V. Masi who was part of the team that visited Taveuni believes that the exchange will impact on them in many ways.

“We can modify existing similar projects to become better; and each new idea can open our minds to broaden our sustainable development goals for our environment, and also the lessons learnt will always be a major driving factor forward in our lives in Kadavu.” Mr Masi said.

The exchange programme in Taveuni and Kadavu happened from 3-6 September and 10-13September 2018 respectively.

The RESCCUE and PEBACC projects share similar objectives in promoting ecosystem-based approaches to climate change adaptation.

Both projects are exploring interventions to place local agriculture on a more sustainable footing and through initiatives such as this exchange programme both projects hope to encourage sound environmental development practices.

In Fiji, PEBACC project sites are Taveuni and Macuata province while RESCCUE sites are Kadavu and Ra province.

For further information please contact:

Ms. Jilda Shem, PEBACC Communications Officer, [email protected] or +679 7731138