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Reserve for the future

Matilda Simmons
Friday, November 24, 2017

EARLY this year, four landowning clans (mataqali) of Burenitu Village in Ra agreed to collectively set aside 32 acres of their ancestral land including freshwater to be conserved.

The village erected a signboard near the entrance of the village on Thursday, November, 16, informing visitors to respect their forest and freshwater reserve.

The signboard also depicted the map of their protected areas.

The four clans are the mataqali Waimaro, mataqali Navunidoi, mataqali Lau and mataqali Natauya.

Three clans chose to preserve 10 acres each while one conserved two acres. It was a landmark decision given it was one of the villages that suffered devastation following the Category 5 Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston last year.

And it was through the approach of one of the mataqali members that Burenitu was able to benefit.

Jale Masibalavu of the mataqali Lau had attended a Natural Resource Management (NRM) Planning Meeting at a neigbouring village when he discovered how several villages in the Ra Province were embarking on a project to protect their natural resources.

"Our village was not included in the project and I was curious to find out how we could maintain the conservation of our natural resources," he said.

"Our tribal lands were devastated in the aftermath of STC Winston last year and after seeing how the other villages were taking a proactive role I thought why can't Burenitu."

Mr Masibalavu is the trustee of his mataqali as well as the village representative on the NRM.

Three other landowning clans in the village namely the mataqali Waimaro, mataqali Navunidoi and mataqali Natauya have decided to throw their support behind it.

"We've seen the impacts of development and climate change on our lands," says Mr Masibalavu.

"But we want the native trees and endemic species which once used to thrive in our forest to return."

Masibalavu added their land used to be home to the 'ula' (giant toads) which was once a delicacy for their forefathers but is now rare to find.

Visitors may have to trek high up in the Nakauvadra ranges to see the creatures.

"Our native trees like the vesi and daku have disappeared, we hope by setting aside these land and planting more of these trees, we'll be able to revive it."

Burenitu Village headman Kolinio Nuve hopes the conservation of their lands would benefit their children in the future.

"We hope there would be more trainings held in the village so our people can know the benefits of this decision.

"It's better we know the results rather than the consequences.

"There's a lot of developments happening in our country, it's either we adapt or face the consequences," he said.

"We envisage a green Burenitu and we are being innovative about it," adds Mr Masibalavu.

"Fiji is a tiny dot in the world and for our Prime Minister being president of the COP23 is a proud thing for our country.

"We should all play a part in the effects of climate change. The more trees we plant and conserve the better."

The decision by the villagers was made possible through the RESCCUE management Project or restoration of ecosystem services and adaptation to climate change.

The project helps communities in Fiji and the Pacific to improve and sustain its biodiversity through better resource as well as provide technical assistance to stakeholders in protecting their environment and managing conflicts around natural resources. It is funded by the Global French Development Agency and French Environment Facility, in partnership with the University of the South Pacific's Institute of Applied Sciences (IAS).

The RESCCUE project is implemented by the Pacific Community (SPC).

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