Fiji is committed to protecting the natural resources and overall well-being of the maritime resource owners in the Lau Seascape

The Fiji government has pledged its support towards the Sustainable Blended Financing Framework, an upcoming initiative for the Indigenous led Lau Seascape which puts people at the heart of sustainable development. 

The Framework is currently being developed by Conservation International Fiji, which combines public and private funding sources to support conservation efforts and ensure sustainable livelihoods, contributing to Fiji’s 30×30 initiative of achieving 30% marine protection by 2030 and sustainably managing 100 percent of its ocean.

During the Framework workshop at Suva’s Grand Pacific Hotel, Minister for Agriculture and Waterways, Vatimi Rayalu, expressed the government’s support for the initiative and commended the Lau Indigenous community for its leadership.

“You have the full support of the government, and the Prime Minister [Sitiveni Rabuka] has indicated full support for Lau – we are committed to protecting the natural resources and overall well-being of the maritime resource owners in the Lau Seascape,” said Rayalu.

“Whatever the formula or mechanism that is the outcome of this workshop, the fund must focus on increasing socio-economic capacity of local communities to manage their own natural resources from the ridge to the reef.”

In addition to its support for the upcoming financing framework of the Lau Seascape, the Fiji government has expressed a desire for a full briefing on the Lau Seascape Initiative.

Conservation International Pacific Director, Susana Waiqanibete-Tuisese, praised the Fiji government’s support and commitment to the long-term protection of Lau’s natural resources and ensuring the well-being of its people.

“We look forward to providing a full briefing on the Lau Seascape to the Fiji government – it is only through collaboration with the local communities, government, private entities and other stakeholders can we ensure a resilient future for the Lau Seascape and set an example for marine conservation worldwide,” said Waiqanibete-Tuisese. 

“One of the key points to note when navigating sustainable management of oceans is ensuring that people who rely on the marine resources can continue with their daily lives despite possible restrictions or changes in fishing practices. This is where the Sustainable Blended Financing Framework comes in,” added Waiqanibete-Tuisese

Waiqanibete-Tuisese explained that the upcoming Framework will use a “Protection and Production approach” to support natural resource protection while ensuring a sustainable local economy.The resulting framework aims to help develop alternative Indigenous livelihoods in Lau that are not only dependent on fishing, such as eco-tourism, handicrafts, and agriculture. This approach helps to reduce the pressure on the marine resources and provide a buffer for the local communities in case of restrictions on fishing practice. 

The Indigenous resource owners of Lau strongly support the financing framework in works, highlighting the importance of the seascape as not only a source of food and livelihood, but also their identity and traditional customs.

Chief of Totoya Island in Lau, Roko Sau said the upcoming financing framework that “is being developed recognises the cultural importance of the seascape to the Indigenous communities and ensures that the voice of Lau is reflected in conservation commitments.”

“We know the financing framework once fully developed will pay for the conservation efforts we are undertaking in Lau, and the benefit will and must roll over to the people in creating a sustainable livelihood – we look forward to working with the government and CI Fiji on this,” said Roko Sau.

The Financing Framework will be developed collaboratively with government ministries and the Lau community to ensure a comprehensive and feasible approach.

The chiefs of Lau have gathered in Suva last week to discuss elements of the upcoming blended financing framework and the Lau Seascape, amongst other agenda items.

This story was originally published at Conservation International on 06 March 2023, reposted via PACNEWS.

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