Exacerbating erosion, flooding and drought events was on the rise due to unsustainable agriculture and resource exploitation within the Nadroumai catchment near Sigatoka in Fiji- but thanks to the dedication of women and youth in the area, the future is starting to look brighter.
The Pacific Community’s (SPC) Sustainable Forestry and Landscape Management Program (SFLMP) played a key role in this transformation, by implementing a four-year project ‘Enhancing value-added products and environmental benefits from agroforestry systems in the Pacific’ from 2015 to 2019. The project focused on women and youths and aimed at promoting sustainable agriculture and agroforestry to replace unproductive and degraded land, and creating alternative livelihoods through agroforestry, in Fiji, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.
Agroforestry, the integration of trees into farming, has many environmental benefits, such as biodiversity conservation and soil health enrichment, which help mitigate some of the problems encountered around Nadroumai. Managed agroforestry systems can also offer new livelihood options for communities.
In Nadroumai, the project began with community awareness activities, and learning about community decision-making processes. The Nadroumai Women’s Club (NWC) was identified as a potential partner, and agreed to setting up and managing a tree nursery. SPC helped establish the nursery and organised training in nursery management, tree propagation and essential business skills. SPC also facilitated the development of business by-laws with a clearly laid out benefit-sharing mechanism that allowed the women to reap the benefits of their activities.
As a result of this initiative, the project improved the NWC and women’s incomes, and supported longer term environmental outcomes.
By 2019, the NWC nursery was successfully producing tree seedlings, which the project was purchasing and using to rehabilitate the catchment. Some of the women took the initiative forward, also growing their own seedlings and selling them to the NWC.
At the start of the project, 10 women agreed to participate. As it progressed, and the community witnessed its success, 20 more women joined the initiative. Club savings increased from F$1000 in 2018 to more than F$4000 in 2019 as a result of the project, and will be used towards village development projects.
By the end of the project a total of 10 hectares were planted under agroforestry, the elders of the community having agreed to extend the area from one hectare to ten. The project ended in 2019, but SPC is continuing to work with the NWC, with a focus on building links with the tourism industry along Fiji’s Coral Coast.
According to Veniana Devu, Nadroumai Women’s Group President, every Monday, “the women in the village will come together and plant trees in the land that was given to us for our nursery. The income we will receive from our nursery will go towards funding some development projects in the village. This project will not only benefit us, but our future generation.”
Women have vital roles in households and livelihoods, but engaging women in land-based enterprises is not always straightforward in Fiji, because of customary division of tasks, and customary land tenure.
The SFLMP Team Leader, Jalesi Mateboto, explained that “projects that aim for community-based sustainable management of natural resources alongside enterprise development need to be people-centred. This means gaining the trust of the people, understanding their long-term views, and ensuring meaningful participation and partnership.”
Through this project, the community of Nadroumai was able to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 15 which aims to protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss, in addition to enabling local women to create income opportunities for their community
This project was implemented through the support of the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.