Nestled on the southern coast of Vanua Levu is the Kubulau district in the heart of Bua Province.

This place is home to one of the world’s top diving destinations, the Namena Marine Reserve, where years ago the community agreed to better manage and conserve their natural resources. Through establishing the reserve through traditional governance systems, communities were able to stop unstainable fishing, develop a unique partnership with the dive tourism operators, and establish a sustainable source of income that would fund community development projects and scholarships for their children.

Fiji National University graduate Watisoni Lalavanua said, “When I went to pursue my Diploma in Environmental Studies, it was a wonderful feeling knowing that my vanua financially supported my goal to further my education.”
Much needed income came from a voluntary diver fee system for visitors to Namena Marine Reserve. Initially the scholarship fund supported a limited number of children from Kubulau in specific areas like environmental studies. However, this has diversified to support studies in other fields like commerce, health care and technology.
Fast forward a few years following graduation, the soft spoken Watisoni Lalavanua contributes to efforts nationwide as a project leader for a Fijian conservation organization, Partnerships in Community Development Fiji (PCDF). Apart from holding down a full time job, he is also a member of the environmental committee for Kubulau district and provides specialist advice on environmental best practices.

Watisoni continued, “Since the scholarship fund was initiated, so many of us children from the district have graduated from different fields of study and give back to our communities in various ways. Some support community initiatives back home by making monetary contributions while others provide leadership and advice on areas relative to their professions’.

Listening to him speak passionately about his work on sea cucumber fisheries, climate change mitigation and water sanitation made it clear that the Namena Marine Reserve is successful beyond protecting marine resources and supporting tourism in Fiji. There are social and economic benefits that the next generation is enjoying. The Namena story sends a simple message that foregoing short term gains for long term benefits is an effective formula for reaping the benefits from our natural resources. It also echoes a strong belief that Watisoni has, that our traditions are still applicable and sustainable in a modern day Fiji.