Funding the future of resource management in Fiji

Local government plays a vital role in translating Fiji’s climate change objectives to local outcomes, discover how Lomaiviti Provincial Council got a boost from an Australian volunteer.

Acknowledging the rapidly changing and increasingly complex global humanitarian environment, the Australian Volunteers Program has committed to increasing volunteer placements in climate change, disaster resilience and food security 

To support the development of new partnerships and to document outcomes in this area, the Australian Volunteers Program commissioned CoLab, a Fiji-based development consultancy, to develop a Pacific Climate Research report. The following case study was developed as part of this report. 

Fiji, like many of its neighbouring countries in the Pacific, is subject to the impact of a changing climateSince 1993 Fiji has recorded a 6-millimetre sea level increase every year, exceeding the global average. The rapid rise in sea levels and intrusion of saltwater from coastal floods have made portions of the island nation uninhabitable.  

Countering the impact of climate change is a key priority for the countryFiji ratified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC); launched the region’s first Climate Vulnerability Assessment; included climate resilience, sustainability, and inclusive development within its five and 20 year national development plans; and endorsed its National Climate Change Policy in 2012.  

Local government plays a vital role in delivering the policy’s objectives by providing a conduit for communication between government and communities, which is key to translating Fiji’s climate change objectives to local outcomes.  

Established in 1874, the Lomaiviti Provincial Council is an arm of the iTaukei Affairs Board. The board supports good governance, and the wellbeing of the iTaukei who reside in the eight Lomaiviti Group islands, which are located in the central waters of Fiji between Viti Levu and Vanua Levu 

In 2016 the Lomaiviti Provincial Council developed natural resource management plans to support the conservation and management of natural resources in the provinceHowever, financial constraints were identified as a barrier in progressing the implementation of these plans. 

Coastal erosion Fiji
Coastal erosion in Savusavu, Fiji is believed to be accelerated by climate change as water levels rise and extreme weather events increase. Photo: Darren James
Aerial view of Fiji
Aerial view of Fiji. Photo: Darren James

The council worked with the Australian Volunteers Program to identify a volunteer assignment that would help build capacity in the council and provide much-needed resources to help implement their plan. Australian volunteer, Sarah Pearson was recruited in 2017 as a natural resource fundraiser coordinator (conservation) where she supported the council’s Conservation Officer and communities to manage environment conservation programs and develop fundraising and resource mobilisation strategies.   

ITaukei communities have the traditional norms to assist conservation efforts, but needed some new strategies to help them better manage their resources.

— Mr. Saiasi Buluta, Manager for Climate Change and Conservation, Ministry of I’taukei Affairs

Sarah worked with the council and communities to strengthen the capacity of the Council’s Conservation Officer, equipping them with knowledge and tools to more effectively manage conservation programs. She also had an impact at the organisational level. Sarah helped develop resources to enhance program management systems and processeslinked the council to new donor agencies and Australian based organisations, and enhanced collaboration with local civil society organisations working on conservation in Lomaiviti 

According to the council, arguably the greatest impact of Sarah’s volunteer assignment lies in the offices strengthened capacity to pursue funding opportunities.  

“The conservation unit has been in existence since 2012 and its greatest limitation is in financial resources. The development of the fundraising strategy and the funding catalogue is proving crucial in advancing conservation efforts in our office and across the 14 provincial councils as well,” says Mr. Saiasi Buluta.

With Sarah’s support the council now has a proposal writing manual that has proven successful in securing funds through the Australian Direct Aid Program and the New Zealand Pacific Development and Conservation Trust Grant. 

“This is very significant as it allows us to train communities to prepare their own proposals and seek funding for their projects. Prior to this, we have always had to work with other agencies to meet the community’s project needs and quite often some communities miss out as there are only limited funds in our office for community projects,” says Mr. Saiasi Buluta.

Sarah also facilitated engagement with new donor agencies and Australian-based organisations, and enhanced collaboration with existing partners such as local conservation organisations. She was influential in promoting a social media presence to reach a wider audience and hopefully gather support for the council’s initiatives. 

ITaukei communities have the traditional norms to assist conservation efforts, but needed some new strategies to help them better manage their resources.

— Mr. Saiasi Buluta
Streetscape Fiji.
Savusavu district on Fiji's northern island of Vanua Levu.Photo: Darren James
Coastal erosion Fiji 2
Coastal erosion in Savusavu, Fiji. Photo: Darren James

With Sarah’s support the council now has a proposal writing manual that has proven successful in securing funds through the Australian Direct Aid Program and the New Zealand Pacific Development and Conservation Trust Grant. 

“This is very significant as it allows us to train communities to prepare their own proposals and seek funding for their projects. Prior to this, we have always had to work with other agencies to meet the community’s project needs and quite often some communities miss out as there are only limited funds in our office for community projects.” name of PO 

Sarah also facilitated engagement with new donor agencies and Australian-based organisations, and enhanced collaboration with existing partners such as local conservation organisations. She was influential in promoting a social media presence to reach a wider audience and hopefully gather support for the council’s initiatives. 

“We see the fruits of her work being of use not only to our office here in Lomaiviti but also for the conservation unit of the iTaukei affairs board and thus it can be useful across the 14 provinces of Fiji.” name of PO 

Supporting communities to conserve and sustainably manage their natural environment are key climate adaptation strategieshelping build community resilience and identifying ongoing vulnerabilities as they live in a changing climate.  

For the Lomaiviti Provincial Council Office, collaborating with an Australian volunteer has been invaluable in helping them progress conservation and natural resource management.  

We cannot express how grateful we are to the Australian Volunteers program for accepting our request for a placement of one of their volunteers to assist us in implementing our Lomaiviti Natural Resources Management Strategy.

— Mr. Saiasi Buluta