8 July 2012, Bucharest, Romania - The banner of ‘NatureFiji-MareqetiViti’ is proudly displayed at the Pacific booth at the Conference of the Parties to the Ramsar Convention in Romania.
The Environment NGO aims to enhance biodiversity and habitat conservation, endangered species protection and sustainable use of natural resources of the Fiji Islands through the promotion of collaborative conservation action, awareness raising, and education research and biodiversity information exchange.
It is a member of the Fiji delegation at this event, providing technical advice and support. NatureFiji-MareqetiViti works closely alongside Rivers Fiji, the ecotourism business responsible for managing the Upper Navua Conservation Area which is the Ramsar Wetland Site of Importance for Fiji.
It was established as a Ramsar site in 2006 when Fiji gained accession into the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. It’s a narrow gorge in the central highlands of Viti Levu, the main island of Fiji and hosts native fauna and flora including an abundance of the threatened endemic Fiji sago palm and breeding populations of at least two endemic freshwater fish species. The surrounding forest also hosts 17 endemic species of birds.
The land is owned by traditional landowning clans and is leased to Rivers Fiji, the ecotourism and rafting venture which is developing sustainable ecotourism further.
|L - R, Ms. Nunia Thomas NatureFiji-MareqetiViti, Ms. Tavenisa Luisa, Department of Environment Fiji|
during the Ramsar COP11 Plenary (main meeting)
“We have seen some positive results from our awareness work on this wetland site,” said Nunia Thomas, the Conservation Coordinator of the NGO and Fiji’s NGO Communications, Environment and Public Awareness Focal Point for Ramsar.
“In 2010, through the Ramsar Small Grants Fund, we designed a programe for children to visit the river site with elders, armed with disposable cameras to take images and learn from the elders and the guides accompanying them of the cultural, ecological and biological significance of the Ramsar site. This resulted in a range of images being showcased and shared by children who told of the new things they learnt, as well as their shared appreciation of the traditional knowledge the elders have.”
This venture was so successful, a staff member from NatureFiji-MareqetiViti now dedicates three days a week to work with Rivers Fiji and continue the support for this awareness raising campaign.
Amongst other areas, the environment NGO is dedicated to help children in Fiji broaden their understanding and knowledge of local biodiversity and nurture respect for the local species and ecosystems so they will continue to consider the environment and our nature in making future decisions.
“We noticed that our children know more about the koala bears and tigers – animals overseas, than they know about local plants and animals so we wanted to revive that culture of knowing our biodiversity in our own backyard and forming an appreciation for it and the basic ecosystem services they help to provide.”
NatureFiji-MareqetIViti was launched in 2007 as the working arm of the Fiji Nature Conservation Trust, it has six start-up programmes; Nature Club; Communication; Endangered Species; Resorts’ Conservation Values; Conservation Partnerships with Landowners and; Savura Education and Amenity Park.
As part of the Endangered Species Programme, NatureFiji-MareqetiViti has identified priority species to work with under the Fiji National Biodiversity Strategic Action Plan, one of which is the endemic Fiji Sago Palm. NatureFiji-MareqetiViti has drawn up a recovery plan for this palm that includes restoring sites through agreement with landowners and drawing up guidelines for sustainable harvesting for thatch, amongst other areas.
“In working to conserve this palm, it has been a real eye opener for us, as there are 300 families in one province that depends on the making of thatch to make a living,” said Thomas.
“Rather than try to ban the sale of thatch to conserve the species, we have learnt if you can encourage them to continue to use it they practice sustainable harvesting by managing their own plantations of Sago palm. Whereas in the past they would harvest sago palm from the wild, they are now creating gardens, rehabilitating degraded sago fields and have established a sustainable harvest regime. This way we help save the species and they have a long lasting source of income.”
This week in Romania however, the focus for NatureFiji-MareqetiViti is the Ramsar Convention. The NGO will participate in a Pacific side event, presenting on the Upper Navua Conservation Area with the Environment Department. Holding a place on the national steering committee for the Conservation of Wetlands, NatureFiji-MareqetiViti is a valuable member on the Fiji delegation.
“We have some really good environment legislation in place which relates to the Ramsar Convention and the Convention on Biological Diversity, the next step now is for contracting parties to implement these conventions right down to the community level,” believes Thomas.
“For the average person in the household this is important because we should all help and ensure Fiji will do its part and we all play our role in ensuring the wise use of wetlands, spreading awareness so all can better manage their wetlands together.”
NatureFiji-MareqetiViti has a staff of seven with 300 club members including supporters. If you would like to lend your support please visit NatureFiji-MareqetiViti .