RESOURCE OWNERS TAKE OWNERSHIP IN CO-MANAGING FIJI?S LARGEST TERRESTRIAL PROTECTED FOREST

Caption:Participants at the Sovi Landowners Committee meeting in front of Veitalacagi House, Vunidawa.Photo:SUPPLIED.

Linking resource owners and communities in the preservation of natural resources is one of Government?s key priorities.

Twenty-four landowners and representatives of the?Sovi Basin Protected Area?(SBPA) recently met with Member of Parliament and Chairman of the Naitasiri Provincial Council, Hon. Alivereti Nabulivou, at Veitalacagi House in Vunidawa to outline their specific roles in co-managing the SBPA with the National Trust of Fiji.

The Sovi Basin Protected Area (SBPA) is Fiji?s largest terrestrial protected forest and also listed on the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List.It lies between three different ranges (Medrausucu, Korobasabasaga and Nakeva), and is in the provinces of Namosi and Naitasiri.

The basin contains 11 different forest types, representing nearly half of Fiji’s wet forest diversity. The area is home to some of Fiji’s rarest biodiversity including plants and birds that are globally listed as critically endangered (through the International Union for Conservation of Nature red list).

The Sovi Landowners Committee comprising of?five villages of Naivucini, Delailasakau, Nadakuni, Naseuvou and Nukusere discussed the role and responsibilities of each partner in managing the SBPA and providing a good model for accountability and transparency for all parties involved.

The committee also reviewed and discussed their roles in implementing the SBPA Management Plan and to align the SBPA priorities with the Naitasiri and Namosi Development Scheme Plans.

The Hon. Alivereti Nabulivou said the work in the Sovi Basin, Yaqara Valley, Nakauvadra and Nakorotubu Range represents the initial steps toward the establishment of the Viti Levu Conservation Corridor ? a network of linked terrestrial protected areas and locally managed marine areas, from ridge to reef, that will help secure both conservation and human well-being in Fiji for future generations.

Hon Nabulivou requested all?landowners, communities and stakeholders to work diligently, hand in hand to achieve the maximum outcome for the project. ?It is high time that we perform and progress ahead. The current feasibility study for the water dam poses a major challenge but with continuous awareness, consultations and good management, the SBPA will succeed,? he said.

Sovi Landowners Committee vice chair Mr Petero Naicola was pleased with the outcome of the meeting. ?We are certain and optimistic that the upcoming community conservation funds will meet some of our village needs and we anticipate a good eco-tourism venture in the future. We will continue to work closely with?NTF and CI in protecting our most valuable resource, the Sovi Basin Protected Area,? he said

Namosi Provincial Council Office representative, Roko Tui Namosi, Rt. Waisake Tuisese said Namosi Province is fortunate and privileged to have one of their villages, Nukusere, to be included in the Sovi Basin Protected Area.

?Our people need to become aware of environmental sustainability and the conservation impact of our protection of the Sovi Basin.?

Naitasiri Provincial Council Office representative, Roko Tui Naitasiri, Mr Joeli Navanikoso said Naitasiri?s 2015 development scheme is to establish a National iTaukei Resource Owners Committee. ?This focuses on benefit sharing to villagers and will create an MOU between all parties involved. The province is currently implementing the Integrated Rural Development Framework which looks after streamlining development in rural areas and gives benefits to its landowners,? Roko Tui Navanikoso said.

?The core function of iTaukei Affairs Board is to look after the well-being of iTaukei people in Fiji, emphasizing that because of nature, people exist and so without nature, people will not exist. The preservation of Sovi Basin is very important and we are very proud, grateful and appreciative to the landowners, NTF and CI for protecting it? Navanikoso added.

The meeting was facilitated by the National Trust of Fiji (NTF), Conservation International (CI), iTaukei Land Trust Board (TLTB), K. Saravi Tourism Consultancy, Naitasiri and the Namosi Provincial Council Offices.

 

DEPTFO