Mr. Semisi Meo
By Priya Chand, Journalism student at USP
6 December 2013, Suva Fiji - Community support has played a crucial role in the success of nature conservation in Fiji, said marine conservationist Mr. Semisi Meo.
Speaking at the weeklong nature conservation conference today, Mr. Meo, who is also the coordinator of the Fiji Locally-Managed Marine Area Network (FLMMA), applauded local communities for their appreciation and value of their environment.
“Building resilient communities addresses that community’s capability gaps, enhancing the catalyst of partnership, building strong communities in the face of nature challenges,” he said.
“As a result, 12 out of 14 coastal provinces in Fiji are recognised as part of the FLMMA.”
FLMMA comprises all stakeholders, namely the government, non-government organisations, private sectors, and communities.
Mr. Meo said the local communities involved were the backbone of the network.
He said in Vuya, Bua Province, the community planted mangroves as mitigation in response to coastal erosion.
Another example of community-based management is in Totoya, Lau Province.
Totoya chief Ratu Roko Cinavilakeba said they had taken several steps to ensure the protection of their resources.
“We have also banned the use of scuba-diving in our community and also established a marine protected area because of over-harvesting,” he said.
“And we have seen good changes in the community and in the resources that we have.”
Ratu Roko, who is also the director of a non-profit environment organisation called the Pacific Blue Foundation, said they also conducted workshops to empower villagers and
raise their awareness on environment issues.
By 2015, we want to Totoya to become a certified organic island and that is what we are working on,” he said.
“We want to ban the use of fertilisers and weed killers and re-introduce traditional farming.”
He added that it was important to take care of the environment for the quality livelihood of future generations.
Priya Chand 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).