NATION

Village Sets up Defence Against Impacts of Climate Change

The 2930 mangrove seedlings in Bulia have been planted in a special way. Small rocks have been built around the seedlings to create somewhat of a stone wall to attract other small marine organisms to be fed.
22 Aug 2021 14:30
Village Sets up Defence Against Impacts of Climate Change
Sikeli Ralovu at Bulia, with Mavana Village in the background. Photo: Eroni Bale Viri

Across Fiji, more and more communities are taking ownership of their own future sustainability.

On Vanuabalavu, the third larg­est island in the Lau archipelago, the impacts of sea inundation and coastal erosion is a constant threat.

Seventeen villages make up Va­nuabalavu. All are nestled along its coastlines.

In between the villages of Mua­levu and Mavana, about 300 metres away from the mainland, lies a mangrove spot known as Bulia.

A group of village men have taken it upon themselves to put up the only coastal defence they know against rising sea levels. 2930 man­grove seedlings were planted.

ACTING NOW RATHER THAN LATER

Coastal flooding and sea surges, among other climate-related risks are common in coastal low-lying communities in Fiji.

For most community’s mangrove planting has been the first line of defence against the natural threats.

Mavana villager, Eroni Bale Viri­ki, said coastal erosion was never an issue in the past until Category Five Severe Tropical Cyclone Win­ston hit in 2016.

“After TC Winston, and the cy­clones that followed last year, we noticed how our beachfront has started becoming defence-less from stopping waves reaching the village grounds,” Mr Viriki said.

“It is not just about the intrusion of sea water coming onto our roads or village grounds, we also have to go further out to sea to catch fish compared to days where we could just fish nearby,” he said.

“All these are just pieces to the puzzles of understanding that cli­mate change is real and if we do not act now, our future generation will suffer.”

Mr Viriki says the group initiative was led by Kiniviliame Keteca.  He is a lecturer at the University of the South Pacific.

 

Mavana Village youth Apisalome Waqa admiring the work they have done so far. Photo: Eroni Bale Viriki

Mavana Village youth Apisalome Waqa admiring the work they have done so far.
Photo: Eroni Bale Viri

PLANTED MANGROVE SEEDLINGS

The 2930 mangrove seedlings in Bulia have been planted in a special way.

Small rocks have been built around the seedlings to create somewhat of a stone wall to attract other small marine organisms to be fed.

Mangroves not only provide a buffer but also reduce the intensity of coastal flooding.

It also serves as a breeding ground for marine biodiversity.

According to the Ministry of Forestry findings in 2019, Fiji has over 45,000 hectares of mangroves, which is four per cent of Fiji’s for­est cover.

Mr Viriki said mangrove plant­ing and rehabilitation was more ef­ficient due to the readily available resources.

“We did not receive any assistance from Government or non-govern­ment organisations. These seed­lings are all from the mature man­groves,” he said.

Seedlings taken from the mature mangroves were plucked in three batches. Each seedling batch took a week to plant and an entire month to complete the initiative.

“Mangroves also provide for us with our livelihood, and it holds our coastline in place. So, if it’s gone it cannot be easily replaced,” Mr Viriki said.

“People’s mindsets need to change towards appreciating mangroves more and understanding the impor­tant role it plays in climate change adaptation and for the wellbeing of communities.”

Sikeli Ralovu at Bulia, with Mavana Village in the background. Photo: Eroni Bale Viriki

Sikeli Ralovu at Bulia, with Mavana Village in the background. Photo: Eroni Bale Viri

FISHING

Mangroves not only contribute to local livelihood but also help com­munities’ food security.

“We plant the seedlings keeping in mind that it is also a nursery for other marine organisms.”

Mr Viriki reminisced on yester years when the catch of the day was always in abundance.

“Nowadays, we must go further out to the open sea to catch larger fishes, all because there is hardly a good catch,

“Back in the day, a good catch from the village men could feed the whole village, but now we have to think outside the box to save our future,” Mr Viriki said.

Globally, the International Day for the Conservation of the Man­grove Ecosystem is aimed to raise awareness of the importance of mangrove ecosystems as “a unique, special and vulnerable ecosystem” and to promote solutions for their sustainable management.

It was adopted by the General Con­ference of UNESCO in 2015.

Studies show that mangrove roots allow it to stabilise itself and pre­vent coastline, provide habitat, nurseries, and feeding grounds for a vast array of fish and other ma­rine organisms.

Mavana Village youths Apisalome Waqa, Sikeli Ralovu and Netani Rogo with the many mature mangrove seedlings ready for planting. Photo: Eroni Bale Viriki

Mavana Village youths Apisalome Waqa, Sikeli Ralovu and Netani Rogo with the many
mature mangrove seedlings ready for planting. Photo: Eroni Bale Viri

THREATS TO MANGROVES

Through the Ministry of For­estry’s 30 Million Trees in 15 years initiative, the aim is to ensure that future generations will have a sus­tainable future.

Since November 2020, 2.6 million trees and mangroves have been planted covering more than 2000 hectares of land across Fiji in the past 22 months.

The ministry also noted that man­groves were disappearing three to five times faster than overall global forest losses, with serious ecologi­cal and socio-economic impacts.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisa­tion, globally mangrove area is esti­mated at 14.8 million hectares; Asia has the largest area (5.55 million ha), followed by Africa, North and Central America, South America, and Oceania.

In the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report released last week, the science confirms that coastal ar­eas will see continued sea level rise throughout the 21st century, contributing to more frequent and severe coastal flooding in low-lying areas and coastal erosion.

Extreme sea level events that pre­viously occurred once in 100 years could happen every year by the end of this century.

Each mangrove seedling is planted with rocks around it. Photo: Eroni Bale Virikition

Each mangrove seedling is planted with rocks around it. Photo: Eroni Bale Viri

 

 



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