A tireless champion of conservation in his province in Northern Fiji, Ratu Aisea Katonivere, brings political experience, leadership, local knowledge, and successful community engagement to BIOPAMA efforts in the Pacific region.
Mr. Katonivere hails from the village of Naduri in Macuata Province, where he is the Paramount Chief and Chairman of the Provincial Council. He holds the title of Tui Macuata. His ‘kingdom’ is made up of 110,000 people living in 117 coastal and inland villages and includes the Great Sea Reef, an area of 78,242 square miles that is the world’s third largest barrier reef. In the early 2000’s he joined with four other chiefs to establish the 32-square mile Macuata Marine Protected Area Network, which has been widely recognized as one of the world’s most successful models for marine protected areas. In 2006, he won the Global Ocean Conservation Award.
Tui Macuata attributes his conservation success in part to capacity building, the key component of BIOPAMA. “It is important to embrace scientific knowledge and harmonize it with traditional knowledge,” said Tui Macuata, when attending the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Jeju, Korea last year. “Capacity building works when the society – the communities – are involved from day one.”
In addition to attending the BIOPAMA event at the Global Protected Areas Programme’s Protected Planet Pavilion during the World Conservation Congress, Tui Macuata actively participated in the recent BIOPAMA Pacific workshop, providing valuable input and guiding efforts on networking and appropriate forms of capacity building for the region. Fiji’s locally managed marine area (LMMA) sites are under consideration for BIOPAMA programme engagement, and Tui Macuata will be an invaluable ally in this partnership.
More than 80 percent of protected areas in the Pacific are community managed. “We put the community first, we put the community second, and we put the community at the end,” concluded Tui Macuata in Jeju. “When the community is left out the project doesn’t work. With community participation and capacity building, we were able to embrace the new management regimes that were brought in by the various NGOs that are now working hand in hand with us. We can now sustain our marine protected areas for the future.” This insight, and Tui Macuata’s success to date, will provide valuable lessons that will enable BIOPAMA to build a solid foundation for improving protected area management and local livelihoods in the Pacific.