By Justine Mannan, a journalism student at FNU
6 December 2013, Suva Fiji - Local participation is the focus of BirdLife International’s work in the Pacific Islands.
BirdLife International is one of the world’s largest nature conservation partnerships, teaming up with over 100 countries to protect birds around the world.
In the Pacific, they have the Local Empowerment Programme, working closely with local people and organisations, as the loss of biodiversity does not only affect the environment but also people’s livelihoods will be diminished such as food, clean water and recreational areas.
Ms. Morena Rigamoto, Program Manager for BirdLife International, highlighted how important it is to work with the local people in Pacific island countries and get them involved in protecting their environmental surroundings in areas where birds are endangered.
“Basically the Local Empowerment Programme looks at engaging with people at sites that are critical for birds and biodiversity and also working with local organisations, empowering local groups, learning from local groups and local people and how they depend on nature and their natural resources and working out ways whereby a meaningful partnership could be established for the benefit of the people and also the benefit of nature conservation and biodiversity,” Ms. Rigamoto said.
The Local Empowerment Programme is currently set up in the Cook Islands, French Polynesia, New Caledonia, Palau, New Zealand and Fiji. The BirdLife International secretariat works with governments and NGOs in these Pacific Island countries.
“It’s important that we ensure that whatever engagement that takes place is done meaningfully and there is respect for the rights of local people or indigenous people and at the same time trying to find a balance in which both traditional knowledge and cultures are respected and at the same time integrated with the sciences,” Ms. Rigamoto said.
Much of the funding for the BirdLife’s Local Empowerment Programme is from the Jensen Charity Foundation, which was established in Denmark.
Justine Mannan is a member of the Media Team providing coverage of the 9th Pacific Islands Conference on Nature Conservation and Protected Areas from 2 to 6 December in Suva, Fiji. This is a partnership between the Fiji National University (FNU), University of the South Pacific (USP), SPREP and Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) whereby a team of 10 journalism students are mentored by senior reporters as they cover the conference. This activity is funded by the Pacific Assistance Media Scheme (PACMAS).