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Building a secure future for women and girls in rural Fiji
“The young girls in this village are the mothers of tomorrow,” says mother of three Amele Nauga. “The fruit and other trees here are our main source of income for the future, and we must teach the children that.”
Amele is speaking from the Western Fiji village of Nadroumi, a hamlet of traditional Fiji thatched buildings and bright houses off the main road not far from the Western hub of Nadi. As she speaks shortly after International Women’s Day celebrations, women from the village collective are preparing for an exchange featuring SPC and its partner GIZ (the German Development Agency), in addition to representatives from other villages in Fiji that are implementing the REDD+ programme on forests and climate change.
Since SPC last featured the success of the Enhancing Value Added Products and Environmental Benefits from Agroforestry System in the Pacific in 2019, new successes have been realized and new challenges have arisen. Amele turns to the tables and chairs being set up in the community centre behind her. “The money we have raised from the project has allowed us to buy these tables and chairs for this meeting,” she states proudly.
A variety of trees is vital and diversifying their work has led to the village once again planting fruit trees that their ancestors cultivated and that had been lost through the generations.
Though the community centre is now furnished and the village women are planting even more trees, she recognizes that the relentless march of climate change will continue. “Weather and climate change has affected our forests and village, causing more floods and taking away income from our river,” she states. Planting more trees is one answer, but the community in the past few years has realized monoculture will not work. A variety of trees is vital and diversifying their work has led to the village once again planting fruit trees that their ancestors cultivated and that had been lost through the generations. “We are looking forward to planting even more new species soon,” she enthuses.
SPC is now buying the collective’s seedlings for its programmes and projects, and the tree nursery is growing. The affects of COVID-19, however, spread to rural villages like Nadroumi, presenting unforeseen challenges in 2020. Village women answered with the help of their own daughters. “Many young ladies finished university and started working the resorts or elsewhere, and some got married,” says Amelie. “But with the resorts closed due COVID, they have returned to the village to help, and have learned our growing methods. As a result, younger girls are now interested in our work, and realize this is beneficial for their later years.”
Importantly, it is not only young girls that are lending an extra hand. Seeing the women’s success, men in the village are now supportive as well. “Men have really been supportive this year,” says Amele. “The are now helping with the nursery, and just yesterday planted over 2,000 Dilo trees!”
The women’s success has spread across Fiji, and during the visit, women and men from three villages – Drawa, Nakavu and Draubuta – informed the women’s collective of their experiences implementing the joint SPC/GIZ REDD+ (Reducing Emissions form Deforestation and Forest Degradation) programme. The REDD+ communities were interested in the Nadroumi women’s potting methods, while the Nadroumi women were interested in how REDD+ communities marketed their carbon.
These village-to-village exchanges will be a vital source of information, collaboration and inspiration if Fiji is to be successful in addressing the present and growing threat of climate change and the future threats that arise from calamities such as the COVID-19 pandemic. For now, though, Amele is just happy to have her oldest child, her daughter, home. After finishing university, she too returned to the village to lend a hand. “We have more help now with the nursery,” says Amele, and that help will open up an educational, enterprising and secure future for the women and girls of Nadroumi village.