Course:FRST270/Wiki Projects/Community forestry and park management in Fiji

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Community forestry and park management in Fiji

Figure 1: Flag of Fiji

This case study focuses on forestry management practices in the many regions of Fiji. There are many different approaches that the affected and interested stakeholders take to manage the forest land in Fiji to maximize their benefits while regulating the environmental, social, and economic costs; some of which are more beneficial than others. As eco-tourism is one of the methods in which the island generates revenue, the government works with local communities to regulate and resolve conflicts to preserve the forest land. Two case studies that will be examined in this case study are the Drawa project and the Sovi Basin Conservation project. These two projects are examples of community forestry in Fiji, with many stakeholders working together to manage their issues. Inferred through these two studies and supplementary points, we can establish that regulations and action plans are being implemented throughout all regions of Fiji to ensure that all regions have a plan to adhere to. As more and more options are being explored, the hope is for sustainable forest practices to become normal throughout this country.


Figure 2: Map of Fiji

Fiji is a country and an archipelago that is situated in the South Pacific ocean. It is made up of over 330 different islands, of these 300 only a third are inhabited by Fijians. (Murti & Boydell, 2008) Its capital is Suva which is located on the southeast coast of Viti Levu with a population of over 167,000, making it the largest city in Fiji. (Murti & Boydell, 2008) However, the largest islands in Fiji are Viti Levu and Vanua Levu. Viti Levu is the largest island and it has an area of over 4,000 km2 while Vanua Levu is the second largest and has an area of over 2,000 km2. The largest sources of the countries income come from their sugar exports and their tourist industry.


The island saw its first inhabitants over 3500 years ago, and the origin of these settlers is highly debated. The islands were passed by many European explorers, including dutch explorer Abel Janzsoon Tasman in 1642, Captain James Cook in 1774, and Captain William Bligh in 1789 and 1792. (Foster & Macdonald, 2017) In the beginning of the 18th century, the archipelago was attracting many visitors as commercial interest was on the rise due to the availability of sandalwood. (Foster & Macdonald, 2017) With the sudden increase in sandalwood, the sources of sandalwood were depleted and traders moved on the bigger better things. As Fiji's economic growth started to rapidly increase in the 1960's and 1970's, traders from Europe, India, and China started to immigrate to Fiji. (Murti & Boydell, 2006) The nation was granted independence in 1970, and has suffered through many periods of political turmoil since then which has hampered economic growth.

Tenure arrangements

Figure 3: Fijian Chief, 1898

Land tenure arrangements were first made in 1879, when the British administration declared that land owner ship would be designated to a Mataqali (clan) style of ruling. (Murti & Boydell, 2008) This meant that the ownership of the land would be under the control of the indigenous people of Fiji, and all native land would be registered under the Fijian peoples. In order to help the indigenous people claim their land, the Native Land Commission (NLC) was made in 1880 to help resolve disputes regarding land claims. (Murti & Boydell, 2006) Commissioner Maxwell was also helping Fijian people register their land by modifying the ownership model to help register the land. (Ward, 1995) As seen in Figure 2, there is a hierarchy system in the Mataqali style of ownership. The Vanua is made up of the Turaga-ni-mataqali, which is the head of the model, and is usually the chief of the entire clan. Under him is the Yavusa's, which is a group of Mataqali's. Lastly, the i-Tokatoka is a family, which together make up a Mataqali. (Murti & Boydell, 2008) The Vanua is in control of a large plot of land, and the piece of land is subsequently divided among all levels of this tree.

However in the 1990's, land conflicts began to arise as the growing population from immigrant workers deciding to remain in Fiji to work caused leasing problems. Fiji was running out of land to lease out to workers and NLC was starting to have trouble finding commercial land. To try and weather these problems, the Native Land Trust Act (NLTA) was enacted in 1940 to try and mitigate these problems. (Murti & Boydell, 2006) It's goal was to first reserve enough land so that the native Fijians would have enough land for their own use through to future generations. Then the surplus of land would be given to lease by the Native Land Trust Board (NLTB), a board established by the NLTA. The NLTB refers to itself as an "independent body, unbound by the control of government and serving the purpose of native land administration, exclusively for the benefit of Fijian owners."(Murti & Boydell, 2008), this is suspicious because the NLTB is headed by both the President and Prime Minister of Fiji. At the establishment of the NLTA, Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna was the founding member and was tasked to converse with the many chiefs to accept the governing of the NLTA. As the various chiefs of Fiji agreed to this proposal, the native lands were split into two categories for indigenous usage: native land and native reserves. (Murti & Boydell, 2006) Native land can be sold and transferred over to the state if consent from the NLTB is given, while native reserves is for indigenous use only. However, if land within the native reserve is not claimed by the indigenous people, the NLTB can ask for their permission to de-reserve the land and lease it out. (Murti & Boydell, 2008) This led to conflicts that stemmed from the lease rights of the indigenous people and the newly appointed Indo-Fijian government.

Administrative arrangements and conflicts

Figure 4: Forest land in Vanua Levu

As mentioned above, the NLTB had the overarching reign over the land. If the indigenous people did not have ownership of the land through the Mataqali, then the NLTB would control the land and leased it out to potential leasers. As the economy of Fiji was rising due to the ballooning sugar industry, land tenure became a point of tension as disputes between the native landowners and the Indo-Fijian government arose due to suspicious acts by the government. As the government was leasing out the native land for sugarcane farming, the Fijian government would compensate the farmers heavily after the lease was done; the compensation amount would be substantially more than the money received from the rent by the native landowners. (Murti & Boydell, 2008)This enraged the indigenous landowners as they were left with their land cultivated and they felt cheated. (Murti & Boydell, 2008) They would refuse to lease out their land anymore to the government as they were deemed untrustworthy. Another instance of this is the government planting mahogany trees in the leased land. Although the landowners were promised a cut of the profits from selling the mahogany, the native people were once again outraged when they learned the selling value of mahogany. (Murti & Boydell, 2008) Combined with many questionable practices such as delaying harvesting seasons to maximize profits and transferring plantation ownership without the landowners permissions really damaged the relationship between the locals and the government. These two examples are just some of many where Fiji's economy is damaged through government corruption.

Case studies: Drawa SFM Project & Sovi Basin Conservation Project


The Drawa sustainable forest management project is based in Vanua Levu and it is one of the first natural forest management projects as well as one of the first community based sustainable forest management projects in Fiji. (Murti & Boydell, 2006) The main goal of the project comes down to the maintenance and enhancement of local productivity of forests and forest conservation in the target area. (Murti & Boydell, 2006) This project aims to bring together the affected stakeholders and the interested stakeholders to educate and equip everyone with the skills necessary to manage this plot.

Figure 5: Aerial view of Viti Levu

The Sovi Basin Conservation Project is based in Viti Levu and is entirely based on the purpose of conserving and reserving the land as much as possible. The target area in this project is the 20,000 hectares of land located on the southeastern part of the island, and is named one of Fiji's most beautiful natural areas. (Murti & Boydell, 2008) Multiple parties have teamed up together including government parties from Fiji and NGO's from USA to produce a UN world heritage site. However, the site is home to lots of valuable timber and an estimated $19 billion dollars worth of timber is sitting on the Sovi Basin land. (Murti & Boydell, 2008) The state government and local communities must work together to find a balance between cultivation of the forest land and the maintaining of the natural forests.


In the Drawa SFM profect, the land is owned by various Mataqali's and there is often dispute about which Mataqali owns which part of land. The boundaries are not distinct which leads to conflict between local clans. Before the claim is settled, the NLTB holds onto the land until a settlement is reached between the two parties. (Murti & Boydell, 2008) The government has no say in this battle because they are not the land owners, so this is an instance where disputes between local Vanua's can have a big effect on the advancement of projects.

On the other hand, the conflict in the Sovi Basin project involves a logging company employed by the NLTB and the local communities. The logging company obtained a logging license from the government with the approval of the NLTB, but the local communities did not give permission for the NLTB to give the license. This has the Vanua's and the state government locked in a legal battle which lasted over 25 years. (Murti & Boydell, 2008) With the aid of outside parties like a US based NGO, the license was revoked, but the trust between the local communities and the government has been tarnished.

Affected Stakeholders

In many of these examples, we have many affected stakeholders. Affected stakeholders are defined as a "person, group of persons or entity that is or is likely to be subject to the effects of the activities in a locally important or customarily-claimed forest area." (Bulkan, 2017)

Stakeholder Primary Relevant Objectives Relative Power
 Drawa Landowners’ Forest Management Co-operative (DraFCo) - Maintain and enhance long-term health and productivity of the forest ecosystem within the model area - High
Fiji Ministry of Fisheries and Forests (FMM) - Monitor the fisheries and forests on Fiji territory - High
Vanua - Administer and maintain control over the population - High-medium
Yavusa - Communicate the needs of the Mataqali with the Vanua and voice concerns and suggestions - Medium
Mataqali - Ensure that the many families are well-cared for and taken care of - Low
i-Tokatoka - Maintain well-being for family - Low
Leased Land Owners - Cultivate land for monetary gain - Low
Workers on leased land - Maintain source of income and secure job - Low

Interested Outside Stakeholders

As seen above, affected stakeholders are those that are impacted directly when changes are made to the forests. Interesed stakeholders are those that are impacted indirectly to these changes. They are defined as "Any person, group of persons, or entity that has shown interest. or is known to have an interest, in the activities in a forest area." (Bulkan, 2017)

Stakeholder Primary Relevant Objectives Relative Power
Native Land Commision (NLC) - Ensure that the land is allocated to indigenous people accordingly - High
Native Land Trust Board (NLTB) - Ensure allocation of surplus land would be leased accordingly - High
Government of Fiji - Make sure land is being allocated fairly and used efficiently - High
Conversation International (CI) - Conserve and reserve Fijian land along with partners - Medium
NGO's - Making sure land is being used sustainably - Low


In both cases, there was something that was holding the project back from coming into fruition. For the Drawa sustainable management project, it was intra-mataqali conflict while it was government-local conflict for the Sovi Basin project. Despite these two differences, land conflict is the underlying problem in these two projects as it is in many of Fiji's forestry related problems. Land tenure issues is definitely one of the biggest instigators of conflict in communities and should be managed by all levels of power. Implementing a bottom up control style of management is a step along the right path, putting local communities and affected stakeholders at the forefront of the discussion with the aid of interested stakeholders should mitigate many of the problems that arise. Along the lines of success, the Sovi Basin project has advanced further than the Drawa project has due to the fact that the problem of the Sovi Basin was brought to court while the Drawa project's problem has to be solved internally. As time moves on, there is still hope for the Drawa project to advance.


Each stakeholder plays a different part in the management of these forests, and some have more power than others. The state government parties such as the Ministry of Fisheries and Forests, Native Land Commission, Native Land Trust Board, and the government of Fiji have the highest amount of power among all stakeholders. They have the most say in what is going on and have the most control over the forests. They should be using their power to ensure that the Fijians all prosper, but the governments are sometimes corrupt and they use their power for their own advantages. This causes turmoil and unrest among the other stakeholders as they do not get what they want. The Vanua would be the next group with the highest amount of power as they are the chiefs of the majorities in their populations. They have the power to allocate the land amongst the rest of the locals, and they communicate with the government concerning land tenure matters. The Vanua use their power for the best interest of the people, as much as they can. The rest of the parties such as the lower levels of the Mataqali model and the outside parties like NGO's have the lowest amount of power but they make up a majority of the population. This means that their voice is equally as important as the higher powers because they make a large number of the FIjian population. These groups use their power in whatever capacity they have to make sure that their needs and wants are met to the best of the higher ups abilities. This means fighting for their land rights, and making sure that no one takes their land or their resources away from them. Each stakeholder has their own level of power, and they must all use them accordingly so that they can all co-exist peacefully.


Recommendations for these projects would be for the state governments to step in and propel the discussion of land ownership between the Mataqali parties in the Drawa project so the project can advance. For the Sovi Basin project, outside parties like the Conservation International NGO must step in and ease tensions between the local communities and the government so the project can also move forward. I would also recommend that the bigger stakeholders like the state government take a step back and allow more control to come from the smaller affected stakeholders by monitoring them with a appointed official or appointed group that is approved by the local communities. This ensures that there is a healthy bond between the smaller stakeholders and the bigger stakeholders and joins multiple parties into unison working towards conserving and preserving the forests of Fiji.


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This conservation resource was created by Course:FRST270.