Field trip to Ba catchment, Fiji

The research team visited the Ba catchment, Fiji from 20 November to 11 December 2016.



  • Andreas Neef, Kahukura Bennett (student) - University of Auckland
  • Renata Varea, Talica Nauvi, Robert Varea (research assistants), Eberhard Weber - University of the South Pacific
  • Floris van Ogtrop, Eleanor Bruce - University of Sydney
  • Natasha Pauli, Bryan Boruff, John Duncan, Gracie Irvine (student) - University of Western Australia


The research team visited four iTaukei (Indigenous Fijian) communities along the Ba River: Nawaqarua (a small community of 57 households that lies close to the coast), Votua (a larger village with around 650 inhabitants), Etatoko (a resettled community of 17 households), and Navala (a large village in the uplands of the Ba catchment, which is the only community in Fiji retaining a majority of traditional bure housing).


This fieldtrip had several objectives, and represented the largest group trip to the Fiji field sites for the purpose of gathering data. The three main activities were (1) conducting participatory hazard mapping with members of the four communities; (2) interviews with women in the two larger villages on the intersection of food security, gender and natural hazards; and (3) gathering biophysical and spatial data on land use, land cover, soils and hydrology.


Participatory hazard mapping

Several team members (Bryan Boruff, Natasha Pauli, Andreas Neef, Gracie Irvine, Renata varea, Talica Nauvi, Robert Varea) conducted participatory hazard mapping sessions with residents of Nawaqarua, Votua, iTatoko and Navala. Fourteen separate sessions were held with small groups of community members (women, men, mixed and youth groups) in a mix of English and Fijian, using a 1:10,000 printed satellite image as a prompt for discussions around livelihoods, impacts of natural hazards, and adaptation strategies. In total, around 80 community members participated. One research team member led the conversation using a series of open-ended questions, with a research assistant translating into Fijian as necessary. Answers to questions were translated back to English where needed, and captured by two to three notetakers. Map-based discussions lasted between one and two hours depending on the level of engagement by participants. After each session, notes were compiled and checked by the translator for consistency and omissions.

Fieldwork for this component covered approximately two weeks; the first five days were attended by the full team after which Honours student Gracie Irvine continued on to lead the remainder of the sessions. Ms Irvine is studying a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Geography, at University College London, and was on exchange to UWA in 2016; her Honours thesis was drawn from the fieldwork and entitled Environmental change adaptation: Communities facing multiple hazards in the Ba District, Viti Levu, Fiji.

The results of participatory mapping sessions will be integrated with hydrological and hydraulic modelling of flood extent and flood flow patterns, in order to identify areas of concordance and discord between local and scientific understanding of flood risks and impacts.

Food security, gender and natural hazards

Masters student Kahukura Bennett conducted interviews with women in the villages of Navala and Votua using the culturally appropriate talanoa technique. Kahukura’s research project focusses on the question of women’s food security in the face of climate change and natural hazards. Ms Bennett was assisted by Renata Varea and Talica Nauvi.

Land use change and catchment hydrology

Eleanor Bruce, Floris van Ogtrop and John Duncan conducted reconnaissance of the Ba river catchment to gain field data on land use, land cover, terrain and soils, and ground-truth preliminary analyses undertaken through remote sensing and hydrological modelling. In particular, the team were eager to understand subsistence agricultural systems to determine whether there were particular features that could be measured using remote sensing analysis. The recovery of native vegetation and sugarcane plantations are relatively easy to analyse using satellite-derived data, whereas the highly spatially and temporally heterogeneous nature of traditional agriculture is much more complex to analyse. Ground-truthing of soil types and geological features was also undertaken to ensure accuracy in biophysical models. The team also visited local organisations in Suva to gather necessary data.