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Yasawa and Mamanuca Islands focus on Forest and Landscape Restoration

With support from the German Government through the International Climate Initiative (IKI), the Yasawa (Naviti district) and Mamanuca (Malolo district) Islands will be used aspilot sites for the Forest and Landscape Restoration (FLR)project. The sites were chosen as a result of the Ministry of Forestry’s efforts to protect and restore dry forest ecosystems in Fiji. 

Tropical dry forests are among the most endangered forests in the Pacific region and the world where most of these forests have long ago been converted to ‘talasiga’ savannas through dry season burning and anthropogenic activities. Of the few remnants and endangered patches of dry forests in Fiji, some are found in the Mamanuca and Yasawa group of islands. These remnant patches have endemic species but continue to be threatened by anthropogenic disturbances due to a lack of knowledge and awareness on the importance of Tropical Dry Forest at the community level, through competing land use priorities, unsustainable land management and a lack of conservation management and action plans. Furthermore, natural disturbances from cyclones and natural disasters cause invasive species like Leucaena leucocephala to encroach on and later dominate these forest areas.

Prior to the launch of the FLR project in the two districts, collaborating partners including the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), representatives from the Ministry of Forestry, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Fisheries, Ministry of Lands and Mineral Resources, Conservation International, Commissioners Office – West, Nadroga and Ba Provincial Office, iTaukei Lands Trust Board (TLTB), Vinaka Fiji and Mamanuca Environment Society were engaged in collating baseline information, conducting training for seed collection and propagation and bee keeping, and awareness and community consultation at the 13 project sites. The baseline assessment is important as it provides information on current status of the project sites prior to project implementation and thus sets the basis and indicators to be measured as part of measuring project impacts. The three weeks activity was also an opportunity to meet with communities and report back preliminary findings from the baseline assessment. 

The baseline assessment resulted in the delivery of various outputs including, current land use and proposed land use map/plan, proposed sites for restoration identified by the communities, draft Integrated Village Development plans with respective restoration management plans, status of ground water and recommendations for conservation and protection, status of fish and coral populations and seed collection, seed collection and seed propagation training to 71 community members from Malolo and Naviti Districts, 56 of whom are females and 15 are males.

Apiary (Beekeeping) training was also conducted for selected youths from the 13 communities. 28 youths were trained of which 8 were females and 20 males.

Paris Agreement in Action

Speaking at the launch of the two sites in mid-December,Executive Director Operations and Services, Manasa Luvunakoro said “the IKI FLR Project is an implementation of the Paris Agreement in Action – Upscaling Forest and Landscape Restoration to achieving the National Determined Contributions (NDCs) and ties in well with the Fijian Government’s 30 Million Trees in 15 Years (30MT15Y)Initiative which aims to reforest degraded areas, increase forest cover and mitigate climate change impacts”. 

He further acknowledged the endorsement and support of the communities in taking ownership of the project which was evident during the launch and also the support of the two project partners, Mamanuca Environment Society looking after the Mamanucas and Vinaka Fiji looking after the Yasawas.

To mark the occasion, native and fruit trees were planted inSolevu village, Marou village and at the Ratu Lalabalavu School compound (Solevu, Malolo) where the launching events were held. 

In order to ensure that the restoration is sustainable in the long term, socio-economic activities such as bee-keeping, value adding of staple crops and vegetables, wood and handicraft and floriculture training (orchids and flowers) linked to restored land will be developed. Farming tools and beehives were distributed to the villagers to support these livelihood initiatives in the communities.

With COVID-19 affecting the tourism sector, many people hadreturned to their villages to start agricultural or other economic ventures. While supporting livelihood initiatives, it is also important to plan appropriately to ensure that new agricultural and other economic activities have a minimal impact on the environment and that they also contribute to the sustainable management of existing natural resources.

Village headmen representing both districts acknowledged the consideration and efforts of the Fijian government and the two partners in selecting their districts as project sites for FLR as this will help the communities in their socio-economic livelihoods whilst also mitigating the impacts of climate change.

Building resilience to Climate Change

For the Naviti District, the launch of the IKI Project in Marou village was done together with the Pacific Island Forest Restoration Initiatives (PIFRI) project, a US Government funded project supported also by the Ministry of Forestry. The role of PIFRI is to enhance the capacity of developing Pacific Island countries to plan, implement, and monitor restoration initiatives for the continual provision of ecosystems goods and services from forested ecosystems, improved carbon sequestration, and strengthened resilience to climate change. PIFRI project sites are in Soso and Muaira villages.

Collectively, the IKI FLR project sites in the Yasawa and Mamanuca Islands will be implemented over two years and aims to restore 400 hectares of degraded land, which will definitely improve the resilience of these island communities to Climate Change.

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