March 28, 2017
Fiji Sets New Protected Area Target
Written By Kylie Barton
In December 2016, Fiji declared an impressive target to protect 16 per cent of all land area by 2020, and local communities will play a huge part in helping this goal become reality.
Here at Island Spirit we have been working with the community in Fiji for many years, to enable them to find new ways to sustain and thrive, all the while protecting the beautiful natural environment around them. We have established many creative community projects to enable women to earn for their families, and have also worked on projects to bring innovative renewable energy sources to the community. So, we were very glad to hear that the government will too, be looking to the community to help protect the land off which they live – the land which we love and just know you will too.
At the moment, only around three per cent of the land is protected in Fiji, which is why the 16 per cent promised is indeed a great target. The initial step will be to look to those areas which are community spaces, or areas that are protected by volunteers to give them the official protection status they truly deserve. It is estimated that around 80 per cent of the land in Fiji is under ‘customary ownership’ (community), and this is due to the strong culture Fijians have that links them to their natural environment both physically and spiritually.
This means that community consultations were key in reaching this agreed target, because the land is owned by the community, and nothing could happen without their understanding and commitment to make it happen. The National Environment Council has established a special National Protected Areas Committee to coordinate and oversee the important work. The committee will help make decisions on each step of the plan, and helps unite people from different industries and communities through the common cause of conservation. There are also sub-groups for terrestrial and marine areas. It is critical that this unified way of working exists, to ensure buy in from the entire community continues, and that the widest range of skills are harvested and utilised to ensure success.
The mapping process is already underway, with scientists also playing a key role to determine the species needing most protection, and the types of habitats they live in being fully understood. Then the next step is to secure the parameters of any area which is set for conservation status, and work with communities in those areas to ensure that peoples livelihoods are not adversely affected. There are presently 36 species on the ‘Critically Endangered’ list, 30 of which are in Fiji’s Endangered and Protected Species Act. However there are only robust recovery plans for five of these; the iguana, the Red Throated Lorikeet, the Acmopyle Plant, the Fiji Collared Petrel, and the Fiji Sago Palm. There is a lot more work to do.
As well as the land goals, there is the goal of preserving a minimum of 30 per cent of inshore and offshore marine areas. There is a mandate to ensure biological diversity in the ocean, to ensure the sustainability of the ecosystems on which Fiji depends. The land and the sea are both so important to native populations, and this is in part due to the revenue tourism brings in. People quite rightly flock from all over the world to enjoy Fiji’s own brand of island paradise and the flora and fauna play an integral part in that.
Click here to see how Island Spirit helps local communities in Fiji to sustain and thrive, and protect their beautiful natural environment.