Visiting the GTZ Project, Vanua Levu

Posted on 24 February 2006

In the second month of my internship I was able to visit the project of the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) in Drawa, Vanua Levu (second largest Island in Fiji). The GTZ project is about a community managed forest area, which includes awareness rising and training concerning sustainable forest management.
Most of the Inhabitants have understood that they should conserve the forest for the next generation...
In the second month of my internship I was able to visit the project of the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) in Drawa, Vanua Levu (second largest Island in Fiji). The GTZ project is about a community managed forest area, which includes awareness rising and training concerning sustainable forest management.
Most of the Inhabitants have understood that they should conserve the forest for the next generation.

The people in the Drawa area are doing this by wisely cutting only specific trees (old enough and well sellable) and they are generating more income. In addition the people living in the project area are involved in every step of the programme fulfilling the social component of the concept of Sustainability. All the activities focus on sustainable development.

The Drawa area is situated in the middle of Vanua Levu. In contrast to the coastal areas this location is blessed with endless and dense forests and deep, clean rivers. A real paradise, too!

Drawa Village
My trip started with a flight from Suva to Labasa (Fiji’s fourth-largest town with 25,000 inhabitants) in a small plane with 15 seats. In Labasa I was picked up by Jalesi, the GTZ Project Manager. We drove a long way to get to Drawa Village. We used the new road built in cooperation with the GTZ: a rough and stony road through the forest. Before that road was build the village could only be reached by using horses or on foot.

The village is directly situated by a river. Whenever it gets too hot or you want to take your morning shower you just jump into the river! The people and especially the kids were wonderful and showed me all the hidden secrets of the village, like the Heralding Stone, that was used to call people together in former times or the ‘Pully’, a bucket that enables you to get water out of the river without going down the hill.

Batiri Village
The next village we visited was Batiri. We did our Sevusevu (welcome ceremony) where I presented a traditional thatched mat to the chief of the village. Because of a funeral lots of visitors were there. To show our respect we went into the house of the wife who’s husband past away and joined many women crying.

This was a weird moment, because some of the women were crying out loudly (Fijian tradition) and in the other moment they talked to me normally. After meeting the family I stayed with I was surprised about the well organized ‘catering’. They fed about 100 people nearly at the same time.

Keka Village
The last village I went to was Keka Village, a small village far from the main road. This site is not completely integrated in the project right know, but they are willing to join. After a few bowls of Kava and a talk with the chief I watched the kids swimming in the river and jumping from a bridge. The sweets I brought were loved by the children and so they surrounded me watching my camera and telling me their names. We didn’t spent the night there and I went back to Labasa that day.

My Work
In the first days we visited the forest. Jalesi showed me the trees that are going to be cut. They are marked with numbers and Bands. The hike was amazing! The dense forest seems to be endless and shows a wonderful variety of plants and animals.

After visiting the forest I did lots of interviews with the people integrated in the project, to get to know their feelings and experiences about the project. Back in the office I am going to write an article about the project.
The WWF forestry project in Kabara and the work of WWF in general could be a connecting point to the work of the GTZ and maybe cooperation is possible. In the next weeks I will organize a meeting with the GTZ to discuss some ideas, like taking some scions of Vesi Trees from Drawa to other areas where they are already extinct or to start a knowledge transfer.

I was also able to do some work for WWF: I made some new contacts with teachers in Vanua Levu for the WWF School Climate Witness Project. In Labasa I went to the ministry of education and picked up a list of all schools that would be very helpful to the work of the Peace Corps Volunteers, who are going to do activities in the schools. The activities include a presentation to explain Climate Change and a survey that helps the kids to interview their grandparents about changes in nature they have noticed.

Michaela Wilczek
Drawa Village in the middle of the forest.
© WWF / Michaela Wilczek
Jalesi and Gabriel in front of a marked tree.
© WWF / Michaela Wilczek
Heralding Stone and "Pully".
© WWF / Michaela Wilczek