Fiji community group wins UNDP Equator Prize for local sustainable development solutions
(Natewa, Fiji) - The Sisi Initiative Site Support Group was recently celebrated by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with an award ceremony in Vosasivo Village, Natewa for winning the Equator Prize 2012, a prestigious international award that recognizes innovation and leadership in community-based sustainable development approaches.
The Sisi Group is one of 25 community initiatives to be awarded the prize this year, selected from 812 nominations submitted by communities in 113 countries across the world.
Speaking at the award ceremony, the Assistant Roko for Cakaudrove, Mr Anare Drauna said that “the Award is a big achievement for Sisi Initiative Site Support Group and it has opened doors for the benefit of the Natewa/Tunuloa District. Not only has it put the Natewa/Tunuloa District on the global map but Fiji as a whole.”
Mr Drauna added that these efforts are a small step towards achieving the pillar on poverty reduction as part of the Government’s Roadmap for development.
UNDP’s Deputy Representative for Fiji, Ms Akiko Fujii in congratulating the participating communities said “You have proven that the conservation work currently being undertaken on the ground in Natewa and Tunuloa can be and is recognized globally. The work that you are doing in your backyard will not only benefit your families, village, tikina and Fiji as a nation but is also contributing to saving the future of your forests and your ecosystems that you and your families depend on.”
Sisi Initiative Site Support Group was recognized for its outstanding efforts to sustainably manage natural resources around the periphery of the Natewa Tunuloa Important Bird Area. The Sisi Group has established a 600-hectare community protected forest and developed alternative livelihood options for the area’s indigenous landowners. The Natewa Tunuloa Peninsula was designated an Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife International in 2005 as it supports a unique assemblage of endemic birds and is a habitat of the Fiji Silk Tail (known as Sisi in Fijian).
Developed in response to illegal logging, forest fires, overgrazing, agricultural encroachment and invasive alien species, the organization uses an innovative incentive scheme to protect the globally important bird and wildlife species in Natewa Tunuloa.
Communities sign a Memorandum of Understanding in which they agree to protect the community forest and refuse logging concessions. In return, the initiative provides alternative livelihood training and projects in beekeeping, poultry, handicraft and jewelry-making, bakery and pastry making, and sustainable agricultural practices. The group’s model farm and tree nursery also help to reduce deforestation. The initiative has been used as a learning model for community-based conservation and forest management across Fiji. Further information on the initiative can be found here.
The Sisi Initiative was supported by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Small Grant Programme (SGP) implemented by UNDP. BirdLife International’s Pacific Partnerships Secretariat received a grant from SGP in 2011 of US$48,000 to assist in the conservation of the Natewa Tunuloa Peninsula.
All of the Equator Prize winners were celebrated at a high level award ceremony on 20 June 2012, in Rio de Janeiro, during the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20). Mr Silio Lalaqila, a representative of the Sisi Initiative was in Rio for the award ceremony to accept the Equator Prize on behalf of the community. Each winner received a monetary award and participated in a community dialogue during the larger conference.
“These community efforts are heroic and inspiring,” said Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme. “And that is what the Equator Prize is all about – shining a spotlight on the women and men on the front lines of sustainable development. At UNDP, we are deeply proud of leading this partnership initiative that provides a voice for communities.”
The Equator Initiative is a partnership that brings together the UN, governments, civil society, businesses and grassroots organizations to advance local sustainable development solutions for people, nature and resilient communities.