Community plant mangroves to protect livelihood and village farm lands
59 year old Torika Lewaca, is one of the many fisher women here in Tavualevu village, in Tavua, on the north western side of Fiji’s Viti Levu Island, that depend on mangroves within their traditional fishing grounds, not only for their livelihoods but protection from the impacts of salt water intrusion.
Lewaca and fellow community members were recently part of a mangrove planting activity that was carried out along a section of Tavua Bay, that Tavualevu village’s coastline boundary forms.
Around 400 mangrove propagules were directly planted within the village’s demarked coastline during last week’s Fiji Constitutional Day.
Like her fellow community members, Lewaca noticed changes to their mangrove areas that were destroyed by Tropical Cyclone Winston back in 2016. Changes included a decline in crab and fish within their traditionally fishing grounds.
For Tavualevu village being one of the largest villages in Fiji boasting the need to have eight village headmen, sustainably sustaining the community’s livelihood and food consumption is quite a challenge for families.
“As a crab fisher, mangroves are not only homes for crabs but places for them to feed and grow. So we need to have a lot of mangroves in place to have a lot of crabs and fish.”
“Also, I am here planting because I want our future crab fishers to not only also have the opportunity to fish for crabs but to have enough as well to be able to feed their families and financially support them” highlighted Lewaca.
“It is quite challenging to maintain these mangroves as Tropical Cyclone Winston had destroyed a lot of the mangroves and with it our source of livelihood and food. So the mangroves we planted today will help us recover the mangroves we had lost during Winston,” added Emali Wainiqolo
The mangrove planting activity was led by WWF-Pacific as part of the continuous engagement and project partnership with the community of Tavua district that includes Tavualevu village.
“Most of the people who have volunteered are crab catchers and mangroves are homes to crabs and we wanted to plant mangroves to also bring more crabs to support our livelihood. Here in Tavualevu, it’s unheard of for mangrove planting but today we want to start something and we did,” added Tavualevu village’s headman, Filimoni Caucau.
The mangrove propagules directly planted, in the a few years’ time, will also protect the village’s farm lands from the encroachment of sea water intrusion affecting the soil composition of nearby village farm lands.
The mangrove planting initiative is in line with and supports the rehabilitation efforts; WWF-Pacific has and continues to undertake with communities in the district of Tavua over the next three years through its ‘Living with Change: Resilient Mangroves, Fisheries and People of Fiji and PNG’ project that is funded by the German Government.
“I am humbled to be part of today’s planting as it is a public holiday but these women have sacrificed their free time to plant mangroves to restore their mangroves, their source of livelihood, with it their income and coastal area.”
“As a conservationist, it is a truly remarkable experience to be part of something like this where ownership is taken by those affected,” highlighted WWF-Pacific’s climate change support officer, Apolosa Robaigau.
Through the IKU Project, WWF-Pacific plans to establish 10 hectares of mangroves in the district of Tavua.
WWF is also part of the Global Mangrove Alliance partnership that was formed at the World Ocean Summit in 2017. The Global Mangrove Alliance is an initiative to increase mangrove habitats by 20% by 2030.
According to a wetlands report carried out in 2008, mangroves in the Pacific cover an area of around 597,000 hectares. Fiji has around 42,000 ha of mangrove forest. The Global Mangrove Alliance target of 20% restoration means Fiji has to plant an additional 8,520 ha of mangroves by 2030.