5,000
inhabitants protected by RESCCUE in Fiji
100,000
seeds planted for reforestation and the mangrove
110.5 km2
of marine life protected
In the South Pacific, the island nation of Fiji and its million inhabitants are particularly threatened by climate change. In Ra Province, on the main island of Viti Levu, villagers are fighting to adapt and preserve biodiversity with the support of an innovative project.

The threats posed by climate change, such as rising sea levels, the increasing number of tropical cyclones and the erosion of biodiversity are crucial challenges for Pacific island countries and territories. 

The role of the RESCCUE project, which is coordinated by the Pacific Community and mainly financed by AFD and FFEM, is to strengthen the resilience and adaptation to climate change of Pacific ecosystems and communities.

Two of the project’s pilot sites are located in Fiji, 16,500 km from Paris. In Ra Province, a project component involves rehabilitating the coast by planting mangroves (photo opposite) and coastal vegetation, which provide a number of benefits for communities, such as the protection of homes against cyclones... At the same time, another project component aims to protect and sustainably manage watersheds in order to reduce flood-related risks and preserve water resources and biodiversity: reforestation, river bank restoration, establishment of protected areas and creation of two agroforestry farms. Nurseries have been set up in several villages, as well as new domestic waste management systems. Each time, there is a concern to work in close partnership with residents.

 

“The fundamental concept of RESCCUE is to move forward with the population, listen to it and work with it in an integrated and friendly manner to ensure it takes ownership of the project.”

Isoa Korovulavula, RESCCUE coordinator in Fiji (photo above, on the right)

Fidji, Resccue, Murray
Fidji, Resccue, Murray
Reverend Tawake’s agroforestry farm
Reverend Kinijoji Seru Tawake, who is posted above a small valley in Tokaimalo district, shows land which used to be deteriorated and unused. The 6 ha site, which has been turned into a model agroforestry farm, is now a source of income for the local community. The farm is supported by RESCCUE and is a partnership between the NGO Conservation International and Pastor Tawake’s church.

The land was prepared last November, with several thousand plantings during the following months. The plantation model, which combines food plants, such as taro, yam and ginger, with native trees and other species for commercial use, such as pine and teak, aims to provide ecological and economic benefits, in order to offer a credible alternative to the current practices of deforestation, single-crop farming of sugar cane and the excessive use of pesticides. Kava, a wild pepper of major cultural importance, but often a source of deforestation, and whose traditional consumption of rhizome in the form of a drink is an important source of income, has been integrated into the agroforestry model.

Mr. Tawake, 43, manages the farm and gets his parishioners to work on it: “When Conservation International wants to plant something, the parish handles it”, he explains. “There are sometimes twenty or so men who come to do the work.”

The aim of restoring the degraded land, via these agroforestry practices, is to reverse deforestation and combat soil erosion. This virtuous circle comes with an essential source of income for communities. For example, the first taro crop was sold on the market for just under FJD 1,000 (EUR 410). “A very good return on investment”, states Mr. Tawake.
Fidji, Resccue, Murray
Maika and the early stages of recycling
In the coastal village of Nabukadra, people used to just throw household waste away anywhere. When the village started to recover from the damage caused by the terrible tropical cyclone Winston in 2016, one of RESCCUE’s activities therefore involved creating a compost area and a selective sorting system.

The village chief, Maika Vakaciri, stresses the importance of dialogue in this process: “We started discussions during a public meeting and the villagers adopted the plan. So, it’s their responsibility to adopt daily selective sorting: solid waste, plastic, glass.”

Spaces have been set aside to dispose of the various types of waste, including bins along roads for plastic bottles. “Most of the waste used to end up in the environment”, explains Mr. Vakaciri. “That’s over now. After RESCCUE’s operation, people started putting their rubbish in the right place and reuse a lot of it. As there is a lack of organized collection by the authorities, the small amount of waste which is not reused is burnt in concrete pits built for this purpose, with no risk of it being discharged into natural environments.”

Another unique aspect of the project concerns the use of plants to treat wastewater: “This is what you see around the village”, shows Mr. Vakaciri. “We have planted specific species at the wastewater inflows to reduce the nutrient level created by gray water.”
Fidji, Resccue, Murray
Jale and conservation efforts
Jale Masibalavu deplores the fact that the wildlife has disappeared and stresses the importance of protecting biodiversity. “We used to have this native cane toad which we found in the bush”, points out the secretary of the Natural Resources Management Committee of the Nalawa region. “It has disappeared, like these native birds which we have also lost because of trees being cut down.”

There also used to be an abundance of fish in the rivers. “It’s over”, Jale Masibalavu is sad to say. “The rain has caused a flow of chemical products which are used in excessive amounts by farmers and the significant inputs of sediment related to the degraded banks and deforestation are responsible for the poor state of the rivers.” In this context, Mr. Masibalavu appreciates the support of RESCCUE – which is implemented in Fiji by the University of the South Pacific – to rehabilitate and conserve rivers and forests in the Nalawa district.

In his village of Burenitu, residents have enthusiastically taken ownership of the project’s activities. The village has been encouraged to undertake other initiatives, while benefiting from assistance in terms of training and conservation. This has led to the establishment of forest and river protected areas in four of the six mataqali (landowning units). They are also continuing to replant native species and pine trees, in partnership with the Ministry of Forests.

Once the foundations have been laid, it is time for the community to move on to the next stage: “When RESCCUE started its operations, it fed us like babies – it was the initial stage”, explains Mr. Masibalavu. “We now want to take things further. It’s time we learnt to walk, which is why we need continuity and stronger relations to further promote biodiversity conservation.”
Fidji, Resccue, FlickR, Karpinskiy
Spectacular dives at the marine park... and its scholarships 

It is one of the jewels of the RESCCUE project in Ra Province. Vatu-i-Ra Conservation Park, the marine reserve located off Fiji’s Sunshine Coast, is an attraction for tourists, especially for divers with its corals, its sea fans, its huge shoals of fish and its seabird colonies, which are visible over an area of 110 km2. 
Jean-Baptiste Marre, Deputy Regional Coordinator at RESCCUE, works at the Pacific Community in Nouméa. He believes that the park is a major step forward: “This park protects the largest area of coral reefs and marine ecosystems in Fiji. It is a major success.”

In Partnership with the NGO Conservation Society, RESCCUE has worked on the creation and adoption of this exceptional marine park with local communities, tour operators, fishermen, the provincial administration and the Government. At the same time, RESCCUE has developed a financing mechanism to ensure the sustainability of the park’s conservation and resource management activities, while promoting local development via scholarships for young people.


Students: Allies of the environment

Visitors to the park each pay an optional admission fee of FJD 15 (EUR 6), which is valid for a calendar year. 30% of this income and other additional donations are used for the marine park’s conservation and management activities. The remaining 70% go to an education fund, which offers scholarships to students from the Nakorotubu district.


This year, 18 students have become the first scholarship holders of this initiative, including Tevita Laso Savua, who is studying for a diploma in history and geography at the University of the South Pacific. This young 21 year-old man from Tobu village is looking towards a career as an environmentalist and landscaper: “I have set myself the goal of becoming a defender of our environment in order to tackle climate change, which directly threatens our natural environment.”
 

A witness of change

Fidji, Resccue, Murray

Since his childhood, Ratu Etuwini Sivo has had a ringside seat in seeing the impacts of climate change in Nabukadra. For this 69 year-old village chief, one of the most significant is coastal erosion: “Our ancestors had a dyke made of large rocks”, he remembers. “But it no longer protects the coast.”


Climate change continues to be seen through the repeated floods caused by extreme rainfall events and a period of drought, which has affected farmers. Everyone remembers the tropical cyclone Winston and the 44 people it killed when it hit Fiji in February 2016, causing chaos and damage in Nabukadra which Ratu Sivo had never seen before: “Everything was devastated: both our livelihoods and the environment.”

Protecting nature together

Many hectares of mangrove, whose rehabilitation and protection are part of the RESCCUE project, did not survive the onslaught of the cyclone. Ratu Sivo has also noted that residents, worried about their livelihoods, have often taken individual initiatives. “It’s no longer really done as a community, whereas before we would have discussed it”, he points out. “These individual initiatives have ended up degrading the natural environments.”

The village chief wants to recreate a community spirit to stand up to the impacts of climate change and ensure that behavior is in keeping with sustainable development, rather than causing sometimes irreversible damage. 

RESCCUE’s operation has made local communities aware of the importance of sustainably managing natural resources: “It’s fundamental”, says Ratu Sivo. “RESCCUE has restored the values of conserving resources and having a community and environment that are more resilient to the impacts of climate change.”  
 

With RESCCUE, the dynamics have been set in motion
Fidji, Resccue, Murray
A resident rebuilding a house following the cyclone in 2016, in Nabukadra village (Fiji).


The RESCCUE project, which was launched in 2014 and planned for five years, will stop in Fiji at the end of 2018. It will stop its activities in the region in mid-2019.

Jean-Baptiste Marre, Deputy Regional Coordinator at RESCCUE (first photo at the top of the page, on the left), says that discussions are ongoing with AFD to continue efforts in Fiji.

But he stresses the work already completed and the sustainable dynamics which have been set in motion: “For example, an additional and sustainable financial mechanism has been set up for Vatu-i-Ra Conservation Park. For the reforestation activities, we have involved the Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Forests which will continue the efforts based on community nurseries whatever happens.”