BEQA LAGOON INITIATIVE
COMMUNITY PROJECTS UNDERWAY
Preserving cultural integrity
A shared community vision
A program aimed at mitigating both the impact of the unmanaged waste in Beqa Lagoon produced primarily by private households alongside a current outbreak of Crown of Thorns Starfish (CoTS), which are posing a threat to the lagoon’s ecosystems and biodiversity,
PBF is supporting natural resource management committees (NRMC) to gain tribal peace and unity over the management of the lagoon and island natural assets which is achieved through workshops, training and the establishment of a Lagoon wide NRMC to make decisions about the way that resources are to be shared and managed.
Preserving traditional knowledge, legends and heritage sites
t is a worldwide problem that traditional beliefs, cultural practices, stories and legends are lost when traditional custodians of this sacred knowledge are not provided with opportunities pass this onto future generations. Recognizing the strong connection between Fijian beliefs and their connection with the land and sea, PBF is working with Elders of Beqa Lagoon tribes to capture knowledge so that it can be preserved and passed onto future generations. We utilize culturally sensitive and Elder-approved methods to document unique information regarding traditional folklore and prophecy from the last living recognized story-teller. This project encourages ‘talanoa’ (traditional storytelling and conversation) around traditional folklore, beliefs and legend, particularly with regard to the connection between iTaukei (indigenous) Fijians and the environment.
As part of this project, PBF is supporting community members to identify the most culturally sacred sites, document the stories behind cultural significance and put in place management measures to ensure these sites are preserved and protected in perpetuity.
Marine and coastal conservation
PBF is working with the communities of Beqa Lagoon to establish the Beqa Lagoon Locally Managed Marine Area (LMMA). Ultimately Beqa Lagoon will be placed on the national stage as a large scale marine protected area, formally recognized by the Fiji Government Ministry of Fisheries and Ministry of Environment as a legislative instrument whilst continuing to be managed by the local communities and stakeholders.
The purpose of this project is to conserve ecosystem function, biodiversity values, and culturally / commercially valued fishery stocks while supporting traditional use and tourism activities. The project will deliver a lagoon wide marine managed area that is collaboratively managed by the local community and government, to protect high conservation value habitats, mitigate the most pressing threats and restore natural resources.
Threat mitigation – vessels, predatory starfish and degraded habitats
This project provides on-ground training to community members to lead and take part in lagoon threat mitigation and restoration activities to enhance the function and health of the Beqa Lagoon ecosystem. PBF is working directly with local communities to develop and implement mangrove and coral reef restoration programs. This is done through mitigating threats to these habitats such as vessel damage to seabed habitats, reducing the severity and duration of crown of thorns starfish outbreaks and replanting degraded mangrove forests. PBF is helping communities identify priority areas for mooring installations, undertake a community-based crown of thorn starfish monitoring and control program and establish mangrove seedling nurseries in each village. PBF is also working with the Beqa Lagoon Resort to transplant coral colonies in degraded areas.
Educating youth and future custodians
Our projects focus on the education of the future custodians of the land and sea, in order to equip the community, its leaders, women and youth with the skills, knowledge and understanding of Beqa Lagoon’s fragile ecosystem and ways in which to manage and preserve the fragile balance between human use and resource conservation. Specifically, our work is focused on working with communities and schools to integrate natural resource management elements into the existing curriculum structure so that lesson plans for literacy, mathematics, science and health studies can be tailored to the environment within which children live. This in turn instils a sense of belonging and connection to the land and sea.
In addition, we offer a scholarship program - the Sireli Kago Education Fund (SKEF) scholarship in the name of the late Sireli Kago, a local from Yanuca Island that championed natural resource custodianship and management. The SKEF encourages youth to continously pursue higher education and vocational training through financial assistance to support their lifestyles and livelihoods, and the wellbeing of their families, communities and environment.
The purpose of this project is to ensure that communities are equipped to better utilize existing community capacity to build a more sustainable economy while minimizing adverse impacts on the social-ecological system of Beqa Lagoon.
Our skills-based training is centred on various professional settings including:
- Trade based training in mechanical appliances maintenance such as outboard engines, solar and wastewater systems maintenance and repairs
- Fish warden accreditation which enables community members to play an official and legal role in fisheries compliance with training accredited through the Ministry of Fisheries.
- Women in business utilising the experience of specialised training organisations, PBF provides tailored training for women who wish to establish small businesses based on hand crafts, arts, jewellery and plant-based products.
- Sustainable and organic agriculture workshops to support farmers utilise sustainable farming methods that involve the creation and use of organic fertilisers and soil enhancement techniques.
- Ecotourism training and resort placements to enable members of the community to become tour guides and deliver high quality visitor experiences
Sustainable community development
Clean and accessible water
This project fosters partnerships between the government Ministries, universities and local communities to develop infrastructure solutions to the capture, filter and supply potable water to each village of Beqa and Yanuca Islands. The goal is to ensure that each community has access to clean water all year round and has preventative maintenance skills to upkeep systems and assure ongoing access to clean drinking water.
PBF is working with local Natural Resource Management Committees (NRMC) to develop waste management plans including solutions to wastes generated from farming practices. Waste management is a significant management issue for communities of Beqa and Yanuca Islands within the Beqa Lagoon. This project aims to improve the management of solid and liquid waste and reduce the negative impacts of unmanaged waste on community health, the environment, tourism, and food security of Beqa Lagoon
PBF is forging partnerships between the government agencies and communities to investigate and implement alternative livelihoods in place of unsustainable commercial fishing practices. Sustainable aquaculture has been identified as a potential alternative livelihood and has been identified by local communities as an important part of managing Beqa Lagoon Locally Managed Marine Area. By cultivating local seaweeds for the local and export markets, there is potential to demonstrate feasible alternative commercial ventures that can support the local economy while reducing illegal fishing and poaching. As a priority, PBF will be brokering partnerships with universities and the Ministry of Fisheries to trial seaweed aquaculture projects and if successful, will roll out new aquaculture enterprises to local community members, focusing on women, via local governance frameworks. We are also working with local tourism ventures to encourage the employment of local community
Efficient energy and transport
PBF is working with local communities to quantify the cost of transport, identify activities that result in inefficient use of fossil fuels and identify cost effect ways to reduce the use of fossil fuels, increase transportation efficiency and adopt clean energy options. Solutions that we are working on include the re-introduction of sailing vessels for fishers, a formalized ferry service between the two islands and the mainland and solar power.
Women in business – Propel Her
One key to the success of the BLI is empowering women to be a pillar of strength in communities of Beqa and Yanuca islands by providing knowledge, training and opportunities to contribute to generating financial markets and professions. This project represents a collaboration with the Ministry of Women and works with women to develop professional development pathways and associated business models to establish sustainable, long-term natural resource based business that target products such as virgin coconut oil, dried bananas, woven mats, organic floral / herbal oils, shell and wood based jewelry etc.