This report provides the results of a study of peopleslivelihoods, agriculture and land degradation in the Navosa region of Fiji. Thereport has been written in a short version for the participants.
The study has been conducted between the months of October1998 and January 1999 in the Navosa region of the upper Sigatoka valley incentral Viti Levu. The survey involved the local people of 18 villages orsettlements in a study of burning following a participatory model. Separate menand women groups contributed to the averages for each village. The names of thevillages or settlements are given in Table 1.
Table1. Names of the 18villages in central Viti Levu that participated in the study
Reasons for the land being burned
The first question was: whyis the land burned? The results are illustrated in Figure 1. The threehighest scoring reasons (clearing land forteitei, new grass, and harvesting vitua) were consistently mentioned by nearly all groups.
Other reasons were often more of local nature. Forexample: clearing tracks was mentionedin only 6 villages; keeping awayvore/vuaka in only 7 villages, clearingland for pines in only 2 villages; diggingkari in 4 villages, and harvestingfuelwood (usually quwawa) in 5 out of the 18 villages. Nevertheless, these less-mentioned reasons were often important for theparticular places concerned.
In addition, there were numerous background or minorreasons suggested during separate interviews. These are not mentioned here, butare 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: whatpart of the land that has been affected by fire was ignited by carelessness oraccident? The answers from separate men and women groups showed a stronglevel of consistency and reveal that on average 71percent of the land area affected by fire is due to negligence (Figure 2).
Figure2. 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 soilerosion and an overall decline in soilfertility 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 mentionedfrequently.
Respondents reported that land degradation could beprevented by stopping careless burning and planting pine and mahogany trees.
Importance of wildsubsistence resources
Participant groups compared indigenous categoriesrepresenting either wild or cultivated food or drink sources, and were asked: whichis the most important? The relative importance of these categories forlivelihoods are illustrated in Figure 3. Examples include vitua(wild yams) which are categorized as Kakanani veikau and malasou (a wildgreen 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.
Lastly, six categories representing a range of social andecological factors that relate to local peoples culture and livelihoods wereselected. These categories were chosen by the researcher following dialogue withlocal people. The groups were then asked: whatis the most important for you in [own village]? The importance of safeguardingnatural resources for future generations was recognized by the local groups,but scored lower than some other value categories associated with daily life asillustrated in Figure 4.
Figure3. The relative importance of categories forlivelihoods
Figure4. Social ecology values in Navosa
The author offers special thanks to the many people ofNavosa and Fiji who interrupted their busy lives to contribute their time andknowledge to this project.
Trevor King c/o Institute of Development Studies School of Global Studies, Massey University Palmerston North Aotearoa NEW ZEALAND