A research team from the University of Auckland, University of Western Australia, University of Sydney and the University of the South Pacific (USP) organised two dissemination workshops in Fiji’s capital Suva and in Ba Town.
The workshops concluded three years of research into local climate adaptation strategies funded by the Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research. Local media – Fiji Times and Fijian Broadcast Corporation – reported extensively on the events.
The workshop in Suva, held at the Holiday Inn on 12 September 2019, was attended by more than 20 representatives of various government agencies and UN organisations, Members of Parliament, academics and NGO staff. In his opening address, USP’s Deputy Vice Chancellor Research, Innovation and International, Professor Derrick Armstrong, expressed his sincere appreciation of the project’s achievements:
“We are grateful for the work the research team has conducted over the past few years, which has built new research capacities, particularly among emerging researchers and postgraduate students in the participating universities. We do hope that the findings will support policy making with regard to climate adaptation and will continue to raise national and international attention to the vulnerabilities but also the capacities of local communities in Fiji when it comes to adapting to rapidly accelerating climatic changes.”
The researchers presented results from various fieldwork phases in the Ba River catchment, emphasising the resilience and adaptive capacity of local communities. The fieldwork had been supported by several undergraduate and postgraduate students from the Universities of Auckland, Western Australia, Sydney and the South Pacific. Sivendra Michael, a PhD student in the University of Auckland’s Development Studies programme, shared findings from his study examining factors of building disaster resilience among small businesses in Ba Town.
The dissemination workshop in Ba was held at the Ba Women’s Forum Development Training Center on 13 September 2019 and attended by 57 participants from three communities in the lower Ba catchment, Votua, Nawaqarua and Natutu. The workshop was formally opened with a traditional welcome ceremony and sevusevu, including a prayer.
The project leader, Professor Andreas Neef from the University of Auckland, acknowledged in his opening statement that these communities do not only face climate-related hazards, such as cyclones, floods and droughts, but also other risks stemming from upstream deforestation and iron-sand mining in the Ba River delta. The combination of these risks puts increasing pressure on the local mangrove ecosystem and the livelihoods and ecological services that are derived from it.
The researchers combined scientific methods with local knowledge to identify the most viable adaptation strategies. In talanoa sessions, community members and researchers discussed how the research could be used to convince government officials and mining corporations about the immense value that the Ba delta’s vast mangrove area has for biodiversity, carbon sequestration, disaster risk management and the local economy.
The research team will continue its research in the Ba river delta under a project on climate-smart landscapes and livelihoods funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research. Community leaders expressed their gratitude to the research team for the trustful and productive work over several years and for making an effort to disseminate findings that are useful for improving local resilience and adaptive capacity.
Newsarticle in the Fiji Times