Established a community-based resource management programme for an isolated fishing community on Kia Island in the Northern Fiji sitting on the Great Sea Reef (GSR) of local, regional and global significance being the third largest reef system in the world. Having perceived the current state of poor management of the marine protected area by the people of Macuata province, Reef Rangers was developed to increase education and awareness on Kia and later to communities beyond. Reef Rangers have carried out projects such as Beach Clean-up Campaign, Proper Rubbish Management Workshops, Understanding Various Marine Habitat Workshops, Coastal Re-Vegetations Projects, Importance of Coral Reefs Workshops, Effects of Over-fishing Workshops and Understanding Issues of Endangered Species.
Over 80% of the population on Kia rely on fishing as their primary source of income, however increasing fishing pressure is damaging the marine ecosystem and resulting in lower catch, which has serious implications for the community's livelihoods. Our surveys revealed a lack of knowledge and awareness amongst Kians as the main contributory causes of unsustainable resource use and a lack of compliance with fishing rules and regulations. The Reef Rangers of Kia Island was developed to empower and educate the community, in particular the youth, about marine ecology and threats facing the natural resources they rely upon.
As the future resource users, the youth have the greatest potential to change attitudes and behaviour of the Kian community in managing their marine environment effectively. This solution helped produce, coordinate and implement lessons and activities offered through the programme to broaden knowledge at the community level and fill the void in marine environmental education in the Fijian school curriculum. A more wholesome approach to learning is being promoted in rural schools through Reef Ranger fieldtrips and activities such as reforestation and beach clean.
- In rural communities, it is important to understand the environment in which you are working and the perceptions of the people before trying to carry out projects.
- Involving youths and other marginalized groups in conservation activities and outreach is an exemplary method for effecting change in the mindsets and behavior of the general community
- If you know you are doing good work, persevere despite numerous challenges and you will see results in due time.
Over the last 48 months the initial phase of the programme has been carried out successfully in helping raise environmental awareness amongst the 300 individuals that comprise the local population on the remote 2km2 island and communities beyond. Through the establishment and development of youth networks on Kia such as the Reef Rangers over 2000 people in the Province of Macuata have been educated on the environmental issues plaguing the GSR and its associated marine ecosystems. The Reef Rangers programme for young students between 5-17 years helps raise local conservation knowledge and awareness through marine education lessons and activities. The programme currently has over 70 student participants on Kia and a further 1500+ pupils and stakeholders that have been involved through outreach events to schools on the mainland.