CEPF is supporting BirdLife International Fiji to lead the establishment of community-based conservation agreements in two key biodiversity areas in Mt Nabukelevu and Natewa Pennisula. This project will involve creating community "Site Support Groups" to monitor the bird populations and forest health with technical support from BirdLife.
Miliana Vukunisiga-Ravuso, Senior Conservation Officer, BirdLife International Fiji Programme
What was the most important lesson learned?
Understanding the synergy between the existing networks of protected area and the local context, including the cultural perspective of protected areas through the involvement of indigenous communities, is crucial to the establishment of sustainably managed community protected areas.
Describe how you learned this and whether / how you have adapted your approach or specific project elements as a result.
Conservation activities were initiated at two Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Fiji, the Natewa Tunuloa Peninsula on Vanua Levu and Mount Nabukelevu on Kadavu Island. The IBAs each have a unique assemblage of birds and support a number of globally threatened bird species, restricted range-species and a good number of subspecies that are endemic to the sites alone.
In raising awareness for their protection, intensive community meetings and consultations with local government representatives were an important part of the consultation process. Participatory Learning and Action Plan workshops were conducted and Site Support Groups (group of local voluntary individuals) were established to promote bird and forest conservation in the respective IBAs. Capacity building for the SSGs has been a priority and communities have built their trust, resulting in the amiable working relationship between BirdLife and the two communities.
Almost all of these communities depend on the forests for livelihood and a balance had to be sought between the protection of their forests and the livelihoods of the local people. It is vitally important that communities are made aware of the tangible benefits of conserving their forests.
Community-declared PAs were established at the two IBAs through a Memorandum of Understanding signed with several landowning units within the two IBAs, to protect their forests for a period of 10 and 5 years respectively.
Management plans developed by the communities set the guideline for the management of the community PAs and the plan includes the establishment of sustainable forest-based income generating projects for which BirdLife will provide support and training. These include model farms and nurseries, a beekeeping project and a village bakery amongst others. These small-scale projects will lessen the pressure on forest resources, and will enhance community involvement and participation in the protection of their community PA.
There are several options for the formal endorsement of community protected areas in Fiji, however it is crucial that the right legislation be in place prior to formally endorsing a community-driven PA. BirdLife International Fiji Programme has ensured that such traditionally statutory designated areas are indeed responsive to the needs of the landowning communities.
April 27, 2010