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Published: 2003-11-04 00:00:00

Traditional Fijian beliefs are being used to enhance modern catchment management techniques in Fiji, the New Zealand Landcare Trust national Integrated Catchment Management workshop heard in Hamilton today.

Fiji Institute of Technology Head of General Studies Winifereti Nainoca told the workshop that New Zealand organisations such as NIWA and universities were helping native Fijians work on sustainable land management issues.

Traditional farming practices – such as not developing plantations next to rivers and demarcation of activities near water, such as fishing and washing – could be used in catchment management, she said.

“No matter how well educated, Fijians continue to have traditional beliefs and these can be made use of for integrated catchment management.”

She said traditional Fijian administration from chiefs to provincial councils, to district councils and village committees could also be used to advantage. Fijians managed waste efficiently, feeding cooked food waste to pigs and using uncooked waste in compost. They shared everything to minimise waste and used all of the coconut tree from leaves to roots.

The country had no sustainable development legislation similar to the Resource Management Act, and the environment was governed by 54 different Acts managed by 15 Ministries. Land ownership also posed problems, as 70 percent was native-owned land with the rest Crown-owned or freehold. Fijians gave land away generously and regarded it as something which was not ‘owned’ but shared, she said.

Up until 50 years ago Fijians stayed in their villages without education and listened to the chiefs’ rule. They farmed together, built homes together and cleaned their environment together. However after independence many people no longer accepted the chiefs’ rules, and their knowledge and money was channelled into village-based activities.

Some indigenous Fijians sat on environment committees and non-government organisations went into villages, creating awareness of environmental matters.

Fiji had received $296,000 in aid for two freshwater research projects – one an inventory of freshwater species and landowner attitudes to rivers, and the other to develop water testing kits.
She said catchment management was fragmented in Fiji and traditional land management techniques were dying out with more westernisation. She hoped that New Zealand’s integrated concept could be promoted in Fiji and tailored to the needs of landowners.

Thanking the New Zealand Landcare Trust for the opportunity to attend the workshop, she said it was great to be able to network with so many community people working in integrated catchment management.