Reasons for optimism in Fiji
October 12, 2017
Fiji’s 332 islands are home to thriving coral reefs, dense tropical forests, and mangroves, as well as a rich and welcoming culture. Seacology has a long history of work in the south Pacific archipelago, with 24 projects dating back to 1998.
Fiji’s people still struggle with the aftermath of last year’s Cyclone Winston, which tragically claimed 44 lives, flattened villages, and caused $1.4 billion in damage. Some people took temporary refuge in buildings constructed with Seacology grants. Many still live in tents and other temporary shelters. But despite these hardships, Fiji’s people remain resilient.
The village of Nukubalavu on Vanua Levu, Fiji’s second largest island, was particularly hard hit, with some homes leveled and others severely damaged. The kindergarten that Seacology built in the village sustained heavy wind and water damage. Seacology approved a small grant to repair and expand the school earlier this year, and late this summer, Program Manager Mary Randolph and Field Representative Pettine Simpson attended a festive reopening ceremony in the village. The school is back in operation, and with a new office and supply room, is able to serve more students.
Mary and Pettine also visited two other project sites on Vanua Levu. Seacology funded a community hall in Nanuca in exchange for enhanced protection of two marine areas. The spacious facility has been in use for a few months, and the village chiefs have held regular meetings there to discuss management of the protected area.
At Viani Village, the sturdy community hall built in our project is aging, but in good condition despite Winston. The forest reserve set aside by the project’s conservation agreement remains untouched, and local fishermen have noticed measurable increases in the size of their catches in the areas surrounding a 7,000-acre marine reserve it established.
In each of these projects, the agreements made were being honored by the communities we partnered with, a decade later in the case of Viani. This commitment is an amazing testament to the integrity of the Fijian people, especially considering what they’ve been through in recent months. As we explore future projects in this beautiful and unique country, we’re highly optimistic about the prospects.