In June GVI Fiji’s Marine Research & Conservation Team facilitated a Yaubula Management Support Team (YMST) Meeting for the Nacula Tikina (District). Yaubula translates to the environment or more literally to the community of living things on land and in the sea. The goal of setting up a YMST is to promote the sustainable development and utilisation of natural resources by improving coordination and communication between stakeholders. YMST’s are a function and extension of Fiji’s provincial coucils and are officially recognised once the structure and participatory communities and representatives are formalised. These teams aim to improve natural resource management at provincial level by setting common goals for community stakeholders in Fiji. This meeting was held to formalise the Nacula Tikina YMST, designate official roles within the committee, and create a Tikina Nacula Management Action Plan.
GVI Fiji works in partnership with the Fiji Locally-Managed Marine Area Network (LMMA) which is made up of a network of practitioners and organisation involved in various community-based marine conservation projects around the globe, primarily in the Indo-Pacific, which aim to create a forum for best practice and knowledge exchange. The ultimate goal of the network is to facilliate effective natural resource management through locally sustained management efforts. As communities are the centre of FLMMA’s core focus, YMSTs are critical tool for organising communities in an effective and efficient way in keeping with current conservation strategies and best practice.
The Role of Yaubula Management Support Teams
YMST’s are expected to attend and frequently update village, district and provincial council meetings on yaubula (fishing and farming areas) management activities within the village, district and province. Community-based adaptive management is promoted by FLMMA and YMST’s. These teams work as a bottom-up approach by responding to communities needs while referencing and developing a local resource management plan.
The GVI Fiji team began the June meeting by summarising the objectives of a YMST and continued by outlining the main focuses and aim of the GVI Marine Conseravtion program in the Yasawas and within the Nacula Tikina. GVI emphasised that the survey data and findings were available for and could be utilised by the YMST. Specifically, GVI’s capacity to carry out biological monitoring and community outreach & education operations, could be tied in with the aims and plans of village management plans. All data GVI collects is reported back to communities and is shared with the YMST to enable informed decision making.
The members of the YMST discussed current natural resource issues within the District and brainstormed solutions to problems raised in order to form a draft management action plan. At the request of the YMST, GVI agreed to assist the YMST to create village profiles within the Nacula Tikina. Members then elected individuals and assigned formal roles within the Yaubula Management Support Team.
After GVI’s Introduction and presentation, the newly formed YMST then commenced their official meeting. During the meeting participants emphasised that the communities across the region have continued to notice the affects of the changing climate and expressed growing concern about resources. It was emphasised that Marine and fisheries resources are extremely important and therefore monitoring and sustainable management of such resources needs to be effective.
The elected Nacula Tikina YMST assistant coordinator, Tito Elo, discussed his experience as a representative of the YMST to the FLMMA Annual General meeting in Navikakaka, Savu Savu in December 2012, where he attended a workshop that reviewed the best practices for community resource management outcomes where communities and FLMMA members shared ‘lessons learned’.
The updated tabu area map for the Tikina Nacula created by GVI with the support of local communities was discussed and YMST members confirmed the map has been distributed within villages. GVI recapped the importance and role of Fish wardens, YMST members requested that GVI attend village meetings to provide more awareness for communities regarding marine and environmental concerns.
GVI discussed the importance of biological monitoring when opening and closing tabu areas, alternative livelihoods and potential opportunities for income generation in the future, adding emphasis on the importance of socio-economic monitoring. GVI presented options to fund potential alternative livelihood projects and information on how to create grant proposals, reminding committee members of the importance of inviting and including key stakeholders such as resorts to support initiatives.
In September 2013 the Ba Provincial Council Meeting recognised and endorsed the Nacula Tikina YMST. This recognition by the province will afford responsibility for the operation and sustainability of the YMST. GVI will continue to help support the function and continuation of the YMST through our resources and expertise and use this forum to spread further awareness and inform decision making based on our research and ongoing conservation efforts in the region.
Recently, funding from people like you through the Charitable Trust was used to purchase a new GPS unit for the spinner dolphin research project. This device is used to mark GPS points during the research session in order to document where photos are taken and where the C-pod (underwater recording device) is deployed.
The GPS plays a crucial role in the data recording process and is integral to the aims of the research. Further funding has helped to supply a Go Pro – underwater video camera which will be used to compliment the capture of behavioural data when deployed from the research vessel when in transit through the reef. The September research phase managed to capture some incredible high definition footage of the dolphins at play!
Thank you again for all your support. We look forward to sharing this data improvement in the future.
All the best
Fiji Country Director
GVI’s Marine Science team decided to coordinate a ‘Fish Warden, Marine Awareness and Resource Management Training Workshop’ after completing intial awareness evenings in Enendala, Malakati, Matacawalevu, Matayalevu, Nacula, Naisisili, Navatua, and Vuaki villages. Previous and existing marine management plans had been discussed with these communities in order to see what had been achieved and what had failed over the last seven years. The principles of marine management where explained to refresh and inspire community involvement. Communities identified poaching within taboo areas as a major problem in the Tikina Nacula.
Cathedral Reef is a dive site in the centre of The Yasawa Group, where two dive operations run a shark feeding dive. There are sightings of up to 9 shark species. Local dive operators requested the assistance of GVI after reporting the presence of commercial fishing vessels in the area. Working in conjunction with the support of the local community and dive operators, GVI proposed training local resort dive instructors, divemasters and boat drivers as fish wardens so that such reefs could be policed. By retaining traditional ownership of local reefs it is hoped these area will be protected and managed by relevant local communities.
In order to formalise the awareness and decisions of the communities with regards to the above issues the Fish Warden Training workshop was designed to empower communities with further training to help them monitor and manage their marine assets and ultimately their food security. GVI approached the Fiji Ministry of Fisheries and Forests and an agreement was made to collaborate to create an informative training session for the district. GVI agreed to fund all aspects of the workshop and arranged for the transport and accommodation of all relevant stakeholders and trainers from the Ministry of Fisheries.
On Dec 17th 2012 the Fiji Islands were bombarded by a Category 4 Cyclone, gusting up to 270km/H and causing widespread damage across the island group. The eye of Cyclone Evan passed directly through the region of the Yasawa Islands where GVI has been working since June 2011, damaging infrastructure and destroying crops. The communities in the remote Yasawan Islands rely heavily on rainwater catchment and subsistence farming to provide food and water to the population. The damage caused by Cyclone Evan compromised both water and food security in the region significantly increasing the vulnerability of the island communities. In the aftermath of the cyclone GVI has been able to provide resources, funding and volunteer labour to assist the communities in their recovery.
Although all 9 villages that GVI has been working with were affected by the cyclone, reports from community members across the region suggested that Naisisili had experienced some of the most extensive damage in the Nacula Takina and was the first village to receive assistance from GVI. In order to assess the needs of the community GVI volunteers interviewed families and carried out visual inspections of damaged rainwater harvesting (RWH) systems. For each household the volunteers gathered information on family size and income, as well as assessing the structural damage to houses and the status of each families access to food and water provisions. From these discussions volunteers were also able to determine whether the families had already received aid from the government or other organizations and if they had begun to re-plant their crops.
After assessing all sixty-four families in Naisisili, it became apparent that food security was the community’s immediate concern. Although the Fiji government had provided the village with adequate food in the early aftermath of the cyclone, those rations were now running low and DISMAC efforts needed to be focused on assisting severely damaged villages on Yasawa-i-Rawa Island. GVI informed Government officials of GVI’s capacity to assist and was given the go ahead to take action. From the information gathered in the needs assessment, the volunteer team was able to calculate the quantity of food aid needed to help supplement current supplies in Naisisili whilst they waited for their crops to recover.
Using donations from the Charitable Trust, GVI was able to deliver 1964kg of dry food, which included flour, rice, lentils and sugar to our Yasawa Base for distribution. In Naisisili GVI worked with the village spokesman to distribute 4kg of flour, 2kg of rice, 1 kg of lentils and 500g of sugar per household, with extra rations given to the largest families and those who cannot work, such as the elderly or sick. A total of 495kg of food was distributed in Naisisili, and GVI completed repairs on 10 RWH systems.
The remaining 1469 Kg was then distributed across seven further villages by replicating the same needs assessment methodology used for Naisisili and in total GVI was able to provide food aid to 200 families. GVI volunteers were also able to carry out further maintenance on damaged RHW tanks and the repairs to a total of 25 RWH systems in the region has restored the ability to collect and store over 100,000L of drinking water. Through the GVI Charitable Trust almost $6000 FJD was fundraised to help fund these Disaster Relief Operations thanks to GVI’s network of donors and ex-volunteers.
Two local primary schools also required assistance in re-opening for the new school year. At Ratu Meli Memorial School, which is the site of GVI Fiji’s Education Project, Cyclone Evan destroyed the roof of the boy’s dormitory and knocked down one of the walls in the school hall. The classrooms also suffered water damage, with the majority of the textbooks being ruined. Fortunately, AusAid has been extremely active in the area, providing generous grants to help affected schools recover as quickly as possible. GVI volunteers have been active on the ground, cleaning the classrooms, compiling an inventory of the damaged school materials and repairing the school RWH systems. The inventory has been used by the Headmistress to prioritise the allocation and application of AusAid funds. Nasomolevu Catholic School was not as severely damaged by the cyclone but there was still need for substantial repairs to the RWH systems.
Although GVI has made considerable progress in tackling the short term problems caused by Cyclone Evan, the communities of the Yasawas are still recovering. GVI will continue to repair the RWH systems that were damaged as part of the ongoing assessments of water security. GVI has also secured a major book donation that will supply enough books to contribute to both Ratu Meli’s and Nasomolevu’s library, replacing those that were lost. Finally, GVI is now working with the village communities to help replant vegetable gardens and crops. The gardens will provide a variety of vegetables for the community, facilitating a more nutritious diet and improving long term food security.
This information was provided to the Fiji Government, The Red Cross and relevant organisations in order to ensure data on GVI’s collaboration with Disaster Relief efforts was reported in keeping with DISMAC planning.
On 17th December 2012, Severe Tropical Cyclone Evan hit the Fijian islands, causing catastrophic damage. Damaging heavy waves, rain and thunderstorms including severe flash flooding hit the Yasawas and Western Division. The Yasawas islands, where the GVI Charitable Trust work, was severely affected. Winds exceeding 125 mph brought down trees, blocking roads and blowing away homes/roofs with widespread power and water outages. Many have already lost all their belongings. Major flooding is a high concern with powerful swells hitting the coastal communities and more rains to come.
On the Whale & Dolphin project, we work wth a number of local staff and support the surrounding communities of the Moon Reef area in the District of Dawasamu. The local community will gain a greater understanding of sustainable management practices and we will help them to develop sustainable alternative livelihoods including new ecotourism projects which will be 100% community owned and operated. Local Schoolchildren will grow up with the knowledge and tools available to make more informed choices about living sustainably and how to protect their beautiful, natural environment.
Over the coming months, the focus will be based on helping the communities face a long, slow rebuilding process. As such, the GVI Charitable Trust has set up a specific project to raise funds to supply immediate basic requirements such as food, clean water and shelter whilst assisting long term recovery efforts in the Yasawas - http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/cyclone-evan-fiji/
Thank you for your support for this project in 2012, we look forward to being in touch in 2013!
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