Navosa Sustainability Study:
Preliminary Results of the Survey on Burning:
A Short Report For Participants
(IFFN No. 26 – January 2002, p. 20-22)
This report provides the results of a study of peoples livelihoods, agriculture and land degradation in the Navosa region of Fiji. The report has been written in a short version for the participants.
The study has been conducted between the months of October 1998 and January 1999 in the Navosa region of the upper Sigatoka valley in central Viti Levu. The survey involved the local people of 18 villages or settlements in a study of burning following a participatory model. Separate men and women groups contributed to the averages for each village. The names of the villages or settlements are given in Table 1.
Table 1. Names of the 18 villages in central Viti Levu that participated in the study
Reasons for the land being burned
The first question was: why is the land burned? The results are illustrated in Figure 1. The three highest scoring reasons (clearing land for teitei, new grass, and harvesting vitua) were consistently mentioned by nearly all groups.
Other reasons were often more of local nature. For example: clearing tracks was mentioned in only 6 villages; keeping away vore/vuaka in only 7 villages, clearing land for pines in only 2 villages; digging kari in 4 villages, and harvesting fuelwood (usually quwawa) in 5 out of the 18 villages. Nevertheless, these less-mentioned reasons were often important for the particular places concerned.
In addition, there were numerous background or minor reasons suggested during separate interviews. These are not mentioned here but are to be discussed within the author’s thesis at a later date.
Figure 1. Reasons for burning Navosa lands
Land burned because of carelessness or accident
The second question was: what part of the land that has been affected by fire was ignited by carelessness or accident? The answers from separate men and women groups showed a strong level of consistency and reveal that on average 71percent of the land area affected by fire is due to negligence (Figure 2).
Figure 2. Results of the survey show that the majority (71%) of the land affected by fire is due to uncontrolled (accidental, negligent) fires.
Land degradation and its prevention
In addition, nearly all groups reported widespread soil erosion and an overall decline in soil fertility as the major problems that result when they were asked: how does repeated burning effect the land? The difficulty of growing (especially native) trees and the drying-up of the land were also mentioned frequently.
Respondents reported that land degradation could be prevented by stopping careless burning and planting pine and mahogany trees.
Importance of wild subsistence resources
Participant groups compared indigenous categories representing either wild or cultivated food or drink sources, and were asked: which is the most important? The relative importance of these categories for livelihoods are illustrated in Figure 3. Examples include vitua (wild yams) which are categorized as Kakana ni veikau and malasou (a wild green vegetable) which is Gunu ni veikau. The cultivated root crop doko (dalo) is classified as Kakana, and doko leaves (bote) are in the Gunu category.
Social Ecology Values
Lastly, six categories representing a range of social and ecological factors that relate to local peoples culture and livelihoods were selected. These categories were chosen by the researcher following dialogue with local people. The groups were then asked: what is the most important for you in [own village]? The importance of safeguarding natural resources for future generations was recognized by the local groups, but scored lower than some other value categories associated with daily life as illustrated in Figure 4.
Figure 3. The relative importance of categories for livelihoods
Figure 4. Social ecology values in Navosa
The author offers special thanks to the many people of Navosa and Fiji who interrupted their busy lives to contribute their time and knowledge to this project.
c/o Institute of Development Studies
School of Global Studies, Massey University