Wakatu Taveuni launched to revive the Garden Island of Fiji

Vinaka vakalevu to Taveuni for the successful launch today of the Wakatu Taveuni!

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And the urgency for the campaign could not be clearer. Taveuni's fertile soil helped develop the island's economy but unsustainable land use over many years also depleted the island's natural resources. Now, as a result, locals face declining crops, lack of water, and in heavy rains, flooding and rapid erosion. Today the island known as Fiji’s Garden Island is having a hard time producing enough food for livelihoods without cutting into important forestland.

“Wakatu has been designed to help you to better understand how your actions impact on the environment and the things you need to do to protect your environment for present and future generations,” said Mr Josaia Waqatairewa, the iTaukei Land Trust Board General Manager of the Northern Division, during in his opening speech at today's launch.

The campaign was launched in Welagi village and as another positive sign of change, the event also launched Welagi’s Reforestation to Degraded Forests project, a first for Taveuni.

Some of the harmful practices resulting in land going infertile is uncontrolled burning of land and growing one crop year after year. Wakatu Taveuni offers simple, practical approaches to using the land better. It also focuses on empowering local champions to lead the way.

That’s why in the ramp up to the launch this week, cChange held a training for more than 30 local champions, providing them public speaking and messaging training and simple outreach tools to creating community discussions on how to use the land better.

“If our communities are really going to change, they have to be empowered to create that change. It won’t come from the outside,” said Alumeci Nakeke, the lead trainer for cChange, which created the Wakatu Fiji campaign for the Fiji government in 2016. “This training gives community leaders the skills and tools to take the lead, and turn things around for their people.”

The participants will now return to their communities and share what they learned about why the land is less productive, why farming practices are making it harder to get water, and how to turn it around. Please follow this page for stories from the field in the weeks and months ahead.

Wakatu Taveuni was launched as an offshoot of Wakatu Fiji thanks to the support of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) through the Pacific Ecosystem-based Adaptation to Climate Change Project (PEBACC) and in partnership with the Ministries of Environment, Economy, Forests, Agriculture, iTaukei Affairs, FAO’s AAD Project, and cChange.

To get the launch starting, a new billboard was unveiled of Wakatu Taveuni’s newest campaign champion, the international rugby star Semi Radrada. So what’s Semi’s motivation for turning Taveuni into the Garden Island once more?

“Let’s join together to revive our Garden Island and ensure our way of life thrives for generations.”

Vinaka Semi.

Vinaka Taveuni.

Photos courtesy of SPREP.

Cross-Government Partnership For Effective Enforcement Of Kawakawa And Donu Seasonal Ban

We are very excited to be able to help facilitate the Fiji Police Force, the Fiji Revenue and Customs Service, the Fiji Navy and town councils across Fiji joining forces with the Ministry of Fisheries to ensure the effective enforcement of the recently enacted seasonal ban on fishing, sale and export of kawakawa and donu.

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The impressive cross-government partnership formerly launched today with a workshop for the Central Division at the Fiji Police Nasova Training Facility, where police, customs, the Navy and town council staff will be trained to conduct effective outreach, and how to support enforcement actions, when necessary.

Similar workshops will follow over the next three weeks for the remaining divisions.

The partnership is the result of an outreach program developed for all key government bodies last year through the 4FJ campaign.

The Ministry of Fisheries and cChange traveled across the country to visit key stakeholders, including sellers, to inform them of the coming ban and build support for its effective implementation.

For the workshop, cChange is providing training and tools to conduct effective outreach to key stakeholders, with the goal of increasing compliance with the ban. The Ministry of Fisheries, supported by the Pacific Community (SPC) is providing training for participants in supporting effective enforcement of the ban.

“This is a very important process because we need everyone’s support for the ban to effectively serve its purpose, especially those in the rural communities who rely on fishing for their livelihoods,” says the Ministry of Fisheries Director, Aisake Batibasaga.

“This training will help spread the message on what the ban is about, why it is important and what it means for those involved in the commercial fishing and sale of these important and highly valuable fish species,” Batibasaga added.

Kawakawa and donu are most vulnerable during spawning because they gather at the same time and at the same spots each year to breed. In Fiji, the peak breeding months for these fish species are June through September.

According to the Ministry of Fisheries, around 80 per cent of the country’s known kawakawa and donu breeding grounds are rapidly declining or have died out.

To address this, the ministry issued a public notice on 6 June announcing a legal ban on the collection, sale and exportation of kawakawa and donu during their peak breeding months.

The ministry implemented a grace period where fishermen and vendors were allowed to sell off any stock of these fish on the local market. The grace period expired on 11 June.

You did this: 4FJ campaign pledge is now a legal ban

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This is a pretty good day for us at cChange.

The 4FJ campaign, which we developed in support of the Fiji Ministry of Fisheries, was launched in 2014 to reduce fishing pressure on rapidly declining grouper fisheries in Fiji. These are A-grade fish that support the livelihoods and food needs for communities nationwide, not to mention are culturally important to all Fijians.

But to tackle that issue, first, over workshops and meetings, we worked with the Ministry of Fisheries, NGOs and scientists to understand that to catalyse support for improved management, you needed to communicate the problem in simple terms and empower people to make a difference. So we got them to stop overwhelming people with science and try it our way. As part of that approach, we developed a simple strategy: Ask people to take action right here, right now, to help revive these dwindling fisheries.

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We focused our messaging on the need to let fish breed, something everyone understood intuitively. No fancy powerpoints needed. We just explained that these fish in particular are targeted as they gather in the thousands to breed and as fishing pressure has increased, too few are left to release their eggs and restock the reefs. And finally, we asked people to pledge not to eat, buy or sell them during their peak breeding months, June through September. Save them now, eat more later.

As part of our strategy, we also recruited champions from all walks of life to explain why action was needed. In their own words, they talked about why these fish mattered to income, to traditions, to culture. We engaged with traditional chiefs, church leaders, fishermen, political leaders, celebrity chefs, and sports stars, and the list goes on and on.

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Now, 4 years later, after scores of pledge drives, tons media outreach, community visits, private sector engagement, and more than 15,000 public 4FJ pledges, and commitments from institutions and businesses, including two national supermarket chains, 4FJ is inarguably the most successful environmental campaign in Fiji to date. And today, buoyed by that success, the Ministry of Fisheries legally banned the harvesting and sale of these threatened grouper, called kawakawa and donu in Fiji, during the peak breeding months, June through September.

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But the change won't stop there. Based on the high-level appeal of the campaign, which included scores of prominent Fijians championing it, including some of its world-famous rugby players, we have been able to forge a powerful coalition to help enforce the ban. We are now gearing up, with the Ministry of Fisheries, to train police and town council, which oversee the fish markets, to help enforce the ban. This is unprecedented and we fully expect the gains on kawakawa and donu management to translate into support for a sister campaign we have around minimum sizes, called Set Size

Form the start, we focused on improving grouper as a way to create broader support for the host of issues facing sustainable inshore fisheries management.

And it worked. A survey we conducted in the Suva-Nausori Corridor found:

  • 93 percent agree with legally banning fishing and sale during peak breeding months
  • 90 percent more supportive of fishing rules and regulations
  • 86 percent want to know more about what I can do to help
  • 82 percent wondered what other fish are overfished

There is a lot more to the story and we hope you follow our cChange Facebook page and our 4FJ Facebook page to hear about the next chapters. But today, all of this is just to acknowledge our hard-working staff, past and present, that have from the very beginning bought into our innovative approach to a long-standing problem and made a very big difference.

Indeed, there is a lot more to the story and we hope you follow our cChange Facebook page and our 4FJ Facebook page to hear about the next chapters. But today, all of this is just to acknowledge our hard-working staff, past and present, that have from the very beginning bought into our innovative approach to a long-standing problem and made a very big difference.

Vinaka vakalevu cChange Fiji.

And we want to acknowledge all our partners, first of all the Ministry of Fisheries, who leads this campaign, but also the Methodist Church of Fiji, the Ministry of iTaukei Affairs, the Fiji Locally-Managed Marine Area Network and all its partners, including both the community representatives and the NGOs.

We also need to thank the many volunteers that helped with the pledge drives, champion recruitment and simply spreading the message to their family and friends.

We also want to thank the Fiji media for their sustained engagement in bringing this important issue to the people. 

And of course, we want to thank all the people who came out to support this campaign, publicly and privately. In particular, we must thank the more than 15,000 people that wrote their names on that funny little fish board and committed to spreading the word to their networks. You took us over the try line, one talanoa at a time. Vinaka vakalevu.

Indeed, it's a good day for cChange. But it's a great day for Fiji.