On Tuesday 23 August 2016, the villages of Cavaga, Nawaido and Makolei launched an ecosystem-based management plan for Solevu that covers all lands (28.6 km2) and waters (133.6 km2) of their district. Similar to Nadi District, their management plan specifically focuses on targets important to the three communities – good quality drinking water, indigenous trees, healthy mangroves forests, healthy freshwater and marine fish and invertebrates.

Interestingly, around half of Solevu districts native forest falls within the Mount Navotuvotu Key Biodiversity Areas that has been identified by Fiji’s national Protected Areas Committee as a “high priority for conservation.” According to a study of forest corridors in 2013 led by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the Mount Navotuvotu area has two critically engaged trees and its forests are under threat from logging, mining and invasive species.

Akanisi Cagintoba, a Community Engagement Coordinator who has worked for WCS since 2002 explained that “about 95% of the Mount Navotuvotu Key Biodiversity Area is under some type of logging concession. Without management, there is a high risk that nationally important forests will be lost, including forest and freshwater endemic species.”

To address these issues, the communities have declared a single large protected area to protect their catchment, and have agreed to a number of additional rules and best management practices to ensure their natural resources are used wisely. The communities have also declared seven tabu areas totalling 17.6 km2, with specific rules on the opening and closing of those areas.

Iowane Sili, a fish warden based in Makolei village said “we have been working on the management plan since 2012, but it has been difficult to get people to follow the rules for long periods of time. The launching of our management plan makes it more official, more formal. It gives us a way of activating the resource management committee to oversee the implementation of the plan.”

One of the first actions that the communities in Solevu identified were to traditionally present the maps of their tabu areas to the adjacent districts of Nadi and Vuya, to make sure people from these areas are aware and there is high compliance. Enforcement is also important to local communities.

“We need more fish wardens in Solevu District to make sure our people are following the rules, as well as forest wardens. Wardens play an important role in monitoring how well communities are following the rules,” said Vasikale Vaisova a fish warden and member of the Solevu Resource Management Committee.