“Pacific Islanders do not need to rely so much on external consultants," says Dr. Milika Sobey, Water and Wetlands Programme Coordinator of IUCN Oceania Regional Office while speaking at a panel discussion this week at the 9th Pacific Islands Conference on Nature Conservation and Protected Areas.
Dr. Sobey said that local personnel are very capable of collecting their own data if provided the proper training. She provided an example from work undertaken under IUCN's Mangrove Ecosystem for Climate Change Adaptation and Livelihoods (MESCAL) Project where a team from the Fiji Forestry Department were trained on data collection for the blue carbon work in the Rewa Delta. This team went on to work with their local counterparts in the Solomon Islands in collecting similar field data.
During the discussions, Dr. Patricia Kailola of the University of the South Pacific mentioned that communities look up to government officers who interact with them and therefore capacity building needs for these officers is important.
“For the MESCAL project, we ensure that data is collected with technical personnel providing hands on training to locals on how to collect data,” said Dr. Sobey.
Dr. Sobey also emphasized on partnerships being a crucial component to the implementation of regional projects such as MESCAL.
Dr Sobey spoke on the topic Mangrove Ecosystems as Natural Solutions for Climate Change Adaptation and emphasized the importance of healthy mangrove ecosystems and the need to strengthen knowledge base and baseline information for Pacific Island countries.
“Improving or broadening our baseline information of this key ecosystem allows the countries and policy makers to be better informed of the mangrove resources they have and thus enable more effective planning, management and informed decisions on policy,” said Dr. Sobey.
Knowledge products and baseline information produced by the MESCAL project for Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu, Fiji and Solomon islands include policy and legislative review reports – in Fiji this contributed to the review of the 28 year old mangrove management plan – the mangrove carbon assessment report for Fiji, mangrove vegetation mapping for Tonga, Samoa, Fiji and the Solomon Islands and economic valuations for Samoa, Vanuatu and Fiji.
The conference which ends today has brought together more than 600 delegates from the conservation community, academia, government and non-government agencies, development partners, international organizations and local communities across the region.