From Prioritisation to Conservation Action: Community-Based Conservation Groups at Fijiís Key Conservation Sites
Darwin Initiative project ref: 162/15/019
Between 2002 and 2005, the UK Governmentís Darwin Initiative supported a project implemented by BirdLife Internationalís Fiji Programme to identify Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Fiji. This project identified fourteen sites of global importance for birds during three years of extensive field work and the subsequent inventory: Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Fiji: Conserving Fijis Natural Heritage was launched in 2006 (see BirdLife's news story, Fiji's IBA book launched).
Having identified Fijiís IBAs, the challenge is to turn research in to action which is now being undertaken with further support from the Darwin Initiative. In 2006, a project called Community-Based Conservation Groups at Fijiís Key Conservation Sites was initiated. The overall purpose of this project is to build the capacity of Fijian conservation professionals to conserve forest resources through the establishment of protected areas, management planning processes and monitoring frameworks. These conservation professionals will then train community members in the management of their own forest resources.
The challenges remain significant, however. Fiji has already lost the majority of its forest resources with logging, urban and agricultural encroachment and invasive alien species posing the greatest threats to these forests, often all at the same time.. Logging operations disturb forest blocks while logging roads increase access by agriculture pests and alien plants and animals.
Four sites are the target of this projectís activities: three have no formal protection and one is reserved. They are:
The Natewa / Tunuloa Peninsula (FJ03) on Vanua Levu, which has lowland forest and, together with the island of Taveuni, supports the only populations of the charismatic Orange Dove and Silktail. The area is under particular threat from logging;
Nabukulevu and Kadavu East on the island of Kadavu support four bird species and several subspecies endemic to Kadavu; they are threatened by agricultural encroachment and invasive alien species; and
Taveuni, the only formally protected area, which is under looming threat from agricultural encroachment and invasive alien species.
The main objectives of the project are to:
develop models of community-based protected areas;
establish management plans for priority sites;
develop an IBA monitoring framework and establish a baseline on which to assess future conditions of IBAs; and
raise resources for the further development of managed areas in Fiji.
Significant progress has been achieved. Highlights include:
positive responses from communities and provincial governments for the development of managed or protected areas;
the establishment of a community conservation group on the Natewa Peninsula while continuing work with existing conservation groups in two other IBAs;
the establishment of a community-declared protected area totaling about 5000ha on the Natewa Peninsula;
a management plan drafted for the statutory reserves on Taveuni;
two university students supported to develop frameworks relating to bird populations and forest management;
the establishment of a draft monitoring framework and initial baseline;
a fundraising workshop resulting in funding for two project concepts from the GEF Small Grants Programme;
extensive awareness work in Fiji through media, community work and awareness materials
International promotion at the 2006 British Birdwatching Fair.
The challenges to conserving Fijiís forest resources remain substantial: the causes of deforestation are deep-seated with low local capacity to manage forests. Communities, however, are often under great pressure to derive income through logging. On the hopeful side, many communities would like to manage their forests in sustainable ways, often aware that forest management is related to water quality, fresh water and marine fisheries, the availability of sustainable forest products including fruits and vegetables and flood risk management.
This Darwin Initiative project is building the capacity of a cohort of young Fijian conservational professionals who are developing skills that will contribute to sustainable forest management in the future. Another exciting development this year is the launch of Fijiís first national NGO committed to terrestrial conservation: Mareqeti Viti/NatureFiji which is working closely with Birdlife International to develop a terrestrial conservation programme.
Important Bird Areas in Fiji: Conserving Fijis Natural Heritage is available from Environment Consultants Fiji.
For further information contact:
Fiji Programme Conservation Manager,
Senior Technical Advisor,
Birdlife Pacific Partnership,