Villagers learn to protect their natural environment

Vllage Turaga ni Koro or village headman, Taniela Tavo pictured with a volunteer.

Youths of Biausevu village in tikina Komave in Nadroga have been vigorously involved in clearing land locked areas surrounding their homes to replant trees to ensure that their environment will be of use to them now and also their children’s children in future.

Biausevu village, Turaga ni Koro or village headman, Taniela Tavo said the environment projected funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the Small Grants Project and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) focuses on sustainable environment and ecotourism by using resources available.

A part of the project also has been to make a track for tourists to be able to visit a waterfall in the village and another part has focus on sustaining the natural biodiversity in the village by replanting Fijian trees.

Speaking in Fijian, Taniela revealed that, "logging has resulted in a lot of trees becoming nearly extinct and in replanting the trees that have been lost we know that through this project we are contributing to saving the environment."

The project has given the villagers a joint goal and they have learned why it is important to protect their natural resources. In the future they will also let tourists plant their own trees, to make them a part of protecting the surrounding forest. The whole village is contributing and they are especially focusing on the youth to continue the work of replanting and to keep the track to the waterfall clear.

"We have decided to involve the youths into this project of replanting trees. They are not paid to do this but it is part of their obligation in the village. They also know that being involved in this project will benefit them and their children in the future," he said.

"What we can see from this Project is that it will be good for our future generation. We, the elders believe that if we do not do anything now to protect our environment, the consequences can be too much for the future generation."

Taniela adds the project has brought about unity in the village and that they are able to all work together in protecting their environment.

“The elders of this village want this project to be of benefit to the future generation.”

To help implement this project they have had an American peace core volunteer living with them for the past two years. He has helped them with budgets and organizing and he says that the project creates a way for the villagers to work close to home and they are also given a better understanding of business opportunities.

"It gives them education on why they need to do that. This is an opportunity to give them money, sustain their resources and keep them in their own area all at the same time. It goes back to the traditional knowledge as well as giving them a future."

UNDP focuses on sustainable development to create projects that will keep running also after aid organizations have finished their work. This project is a good example of that as the ecotourism initiative is creating an income to benefit the village.

"I’m hoping that through the work we put in and through the work that UNDP has put into this project that enough education has been there of the right people have been involved. So that they understand that benefit of this project is more than just you know, something to do. It’s a future for the youth and the youths of the youths," he said.

Fiji is on track to reach the seventh goal, but there is still work to be done to secure environmental sustainability within the deadline of 2015. Deforestation is one of the main environmental challenges, because the clearing of trees has led to problems of land degradation, loss of biodiversity, landslides and soil erosion. The Minister of Environment is now reaching out to everyone to take their part of the responsibility.

"Achieving sustainable development, while trying to overcome challenges such as deforestation, land degradation, logging of watersheds, over-exploitation of terrestrial and aquatic biological resources, improper waste management and pollution control, impact of climate change and changing people’s attitude with the sustainable use of their resources is a challenge to governments of small island states such as Fiji," the Environment Minister, Colonel Samuela Saumatua said.

He said that people need to stand on their own two feet and in that regard we are telling them that the environment is for all and it is everyone’s responsibility to look after it collectively.

He underlines the importance of working together and he says that Fiji’s effort to reach this goal is supported by several NGOs, partners and donors of the country. He promises that Fiji will reach this goal.

We are not there yet. This is 2010, so we have five years to go. In these five years we tend to achieve a lot. What I can tell you is that there is a gap that needs to be covered. We will cover that gap and we will attain the sustainability required by 2015.

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