Water wins in Oceania

08 December 2011 | News story

Successes and lessons learnt from IUCN’s water projects in Oceania were the highlight of discussions at the final Water and Nature Initiative Project Meeting, held from November 28 to December 1 2011 in Suva, Fiji.

Fifteen participants comprising project and regional partners and donors attended the four day wrap-up meeting to discuss activities implemented, and challenges and lessons learnt from engaging with communities, local and national governments and provincial administrations.

IUCN’s Water and Nature Initiative (WANI) began its preliminary work in the Pacific in 2008. From 2010 IUCN began working with the governments of Samoa and Fiji to show that proper care of water resources can improve the resilience of both people and nature to extreme weather events as well as maintain the health of surrounding natural ecosystems.

IUCN’s Water and Wetlands Programme Coordinator, Dr. Milika Sobey, was impressed with the achievements of WANI given the short time frame of the project.

“WANI set out to improve how the local and urban communities manage their water resources using the ‘ridge-to-reef’ approach and it has achieved that”

“This meeting has given us valuable insight into what could be done differently in planning future projects. For instance, there is consensus in having both a top-down and bottom-up approach, together with a realistic timeframe for project implementation”.

The project in Samoa focussed on the Togitogiga Catchment in Togitogiga National Park on the island of Upolu. Once a flourishing catchment, the area was degraded due to soil erosion, sedimentation and water pollution – side effects of land development and increasing population.

Amongst other successes, IUCN helped the government of Samoa to develop and implement a watershed management plan for Togitogiga. This will guide the government as well as the community to improve the health of the catchment and in-turn the livelihoods of the local people.

In Fiji, IUCN worked with communities in the town of Nadi and on the island of Kadavu. In the flood prone town of Nadi, IUCN has helped to set up the Nadi Basin Catchment Committee (NBCC) and assisted in undertaking a Nadi Basin biodiversity inventory. The project successfully drafted a National Flood Policy through inter-agency coordination for Fiji’s water management, a first in Fiji.

IUCN, in partnership with the University of the South Pacific is working with communities on the island of Kadavu, which has one of the largest protected areas in Fiji and contains 65 registered Marine Parks. This project established a District Catchment Committee to oversee the development of a more integrated approach to water management for the area. Also, training on native forest restoration has led to four villages creating their own nurseries, planting native species in degraded upper catchment areas, and reduced burning and grazing.

“Though the project has come to its end, the successes and lessons learnt from WANI can be replicated nationally as well as regionally and we will document these into a publication that will be disseminated to relevant agencies,” said Sobey.

Lessons learnt from WANI will also be integrated into IUCN’s work in the Kovi Catchment in the Solomon Islands in 2012 and other future projects within the region.

The overall initiative was administered out of the IUCN Headquarters based in Switzerland and financially supported by the Netherlands' Directorate-General for International Cooperation.

For more information contact:
Milika Sobey, IUCN Water and Wetlands Programme Coordinator, milika.sobey@iucn.org