FIJI Water Foundation
Conservation International is working with the FIJI Water Foundation to provide funding to endow a trust fund to permanently protect the Sovi Basin, Fiji’s most important forest ecosystem. The Sovi Basin, located on the Fiji island of Viti Levu, covers over 20,234 hectares (50,000 acres) of land and is the largest remaining lowland rainforest in Fiji.
LEARN MORE about our work with FIJI Water.
Progress to date
In April 2008, the FIJI Water Foundation and Conservation International entered into a three-year grant agreement to protect the natural resources of Viti Levu, Fiji. This grant of US $5 million has three key objectives:
- Design of the Viti Levu Conservation Corridor.
- Contribution to the Sovi Basin Trust Fund.
- Scientific and technical assessments and community consultations to facilitate conservation initiatives within the Yaqara and Nakauvadra Watersheds.
Viti Levu Conservation Corridor
Our work in Fiji focuses on Viti Levu, the country’s largest island and home to 70% of Fiji’s population (approximately 590,000 residents). It is a volcanic island about the size of the Big Island of Hawai‘i and is divided in half by a north-south mountain range. The prevailing southeast trade winds result in a “wet” eastern side and a “dry” western side. The dry west is mostly arid grassland used for sugarcane production or grazing, with tourism — Fiji’s largest economic sector — concentrated along the western coastline. While much of the eastern side is still covered in forests, they are under pressure from logging and conversion to agriculture.
Our activities are focused on where we can have the greatest impact on issues on an island-wide scale that are most closely aligned with the nexus of healthy ecosystems, ecosystem services and human well-being. We have adopted and defined the Viti Levu Islandscape on Fiji’s main island — a network of terrestrial and marine protected areas linked by managed land and sea areas — and we have begun implementing the Islandscape through our work in the Sovi Basin and Nakauvadra Range.
In consultation with the National Trust of Fiji (our main local partner), we made a submission to the Government of Fiji through the Department of Environment for the formation of a Protected Area Committee (PAC), which has been approved.
Sovi Basin Trust Fund
To ensure sustainable financing for this region, the Sovi Basin Trust Fund was established with HSBC Trustee (Singapore) Ltd in Singapore. When fully endowed, the interest from the Fund will provide an ongoing source of income to the indigenous land owning communities (Mataqali) through: the land lease and foregone timber royalty payments; a community fund for the sustainable development of the surrounding area; a management budget to the National Trust of Fiji for the implementation of conservation objectives; and a management plan for the Sovi Basin Protected Area in partnership with the landowning communities. We have currently raised US$ 3.75 million against our Sovi Basin Trust Fund target of US$ 4.5 million, through contributions from FIJI Water and the Global Conservation Fund. An additional US$ 225,000 has been earmarked from the Global Environmental Facility (GEF).
Scientific and technical assessments in the Yaqara Valley Nature Reserve
A Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) survey of the Nakauvadra Range was carried out from November 17 – 28, 2008. The RAP survey was the first ever carried out in the area, and the two-week expedition brought together more than 16 field researchers from Fiji and around the world, with specialties as diverse as crustaceans, birds, and invasive plants.
A second RAP survey covering the Nakorotubu Range was carried out from November 29 – December 12, 2009. Located on northeastern Viti Levu, the Nakorotubu mountain range comprises one of the largest tracts of forest in the country, connecting crucial ecosystems and providing water, food security, and other essential resources for the residents of the indigenous communities who own the land and its forests. The expeditions provided essential baseline information on the forest’s biodiversity and will show just how closely its species are linked to human livelihoods. It aimed to increase knowledge of species distribution and demonstrate the value of species and ecosystems for human well-being, with a particular focus on the interconnectivity of ecosystems. For example, one fish species that spawns in a mountain river may be eaten miles away in a coastal community. This information will assist in national and community planning and management to facilitate sustainable agricultural production, more effective forest management, and the identification of special areas for protection.