Saturday, 23 June 2012

Fijian community bird conservation project wins global award at Rio+20 conference

By Makereta Komai, PACNEWS Editor

Silion Lalaqila of Fiji after receiving his Equator 2012 prize with Fiji delegation

22 June 2012, Rio de Janeiro - A community bird conservation project in the two tikinas of Tunuloa and Natewa in Cakaudrove, on Fiji’s northern island of Vanua Levu has received the global Equator Prize 2012 by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The prestigious award, which includes a prize money of USD$5,000 was presented to the tikina representative, Silio Lalaqila at an award ceremony in Rio de Janeiro, co-hosted by actor, Ed Norton and Brazilian actress and environmental advocate, Camilla Pitanga.

The Sisi Initiative manages natural resources around the periphery of the Natewa Tunuloa Important Bird Area (IBA). Its work involves the establishment of a 6,000 hectare community managed forest and developing alternative livelihood options for the areas indigenous landowners.

Te project was originally developed to respond to problems of illegal logging, forest fires, overgrazing, agricultural encroachment and invasive alien species around the IBA, which included large tracts of old grown rainforest that support globally threatened birds.

Receiving the award Wednesday, Lalaqila was overwhelmed by emotions, travelling from his humble day job as a farmer in the village across the globe to receive the award in front of many world leaders.

“I am so thankful to BirdLife International for all the help they gave us to manage and conserve our natural resources.

“I felt proud to be a Fijian receiving this award on behalf of all the communities in Fiji that are actively engaged in conserving their natural resources. It was more special getting the award in front of my own Prime Minister, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, Lalaqila told PACNEWS Editor, Makereta Komai, after the award ceremony.

Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama (middle) accompanied by Minister for Youth and Sport,
Viliame Naupoto (left) and Fiji Ambassador to Brazil, Cama Tuiloma (right)

The Equator Prize is a biennial award that recognises outstanding local sustainable solutions for people, nature and resilient communities.

The project is an example of strong partnership with the local communities, said Miliana Ravuso, Programme Coordinator, BirdLife International Pacific Secretariat.

“Over time, and with much dialogue and awareness-raising conducted by BirdLife and other stakeholders, the communities came to realise the importance of protecting an endemic bird, the silktail (Lamprolia victoriae) and its habitat, and recognized the potential for an ecotourism birding venture. The communities understood the destructive impacts of unsustainable logging and land-management practices, and realized that they could better manage existing natural resources and still derive income from them through alternative livelihood projects,” Ravuso said.

The initiative is a learning model for community-based conservation and forest management across Fiji.

“We are proud to support organisations such as the Sisi Initiative Site Support Group (SSG), which empowers indigenous communities to protect, manage and steward the natural resources in their communities, said Patricia Zurita, executive director of Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF).

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