Internet notebook about my work: deep listening to facilitate positive change


Monday 23 September 2013

Small steps towards the larger goal

Sisi Initiative was a 2012 Equator Prize winner. Facts and fgures are described in a UNDP case study. United Nations Development Programme. 2013. Sisi Initiative Site Support Group, Fiji. Equator Initiative Case Study Series. New York, NY. Based on this information we retell here the story according to the principles of story telling. We choose to do so from the perspective of the treasurer of the Sisi Initiative, telling other indigenous land owners in the country how they generated positive change.

Strategic Story Elements
Target audience: indigenous landowners in other parts of the country
Key point: small steps towards new livelihoods can help you, your land and that of your children
Conflict: Community reluctance to egnage in conservation of their land without concrete benefits
Hero: Mr. Silio Lalaqila, Treasurer, Sisi Initiative Site Support Group, Fiji             
Adversary: Communities engaging in activities harming the forest and biodiversity

My name is Silio Lalaqila and I am the Treasurer of the Sisi Initiative. I am from the Island of Vanua Levu that is situated in the North of Fiji. The mountainous peninsula of Natewa Tunuloa on the island is rich of forests. At sunrise you can hear the songs of many birds. One of them is the Sisi, the rare Fijian silktail bird, that we are all proud of. In the days of my grandparents the people in our small indigenous communities were mostly farmers. They occasionally went into the forest for firewood, timber, hunting, some wild foods and medicinal plants.

As it seems that all good things come to an end, that lifestyle slowly disappeared. People started to cut forests for mahogany or coconut plantations. Sometimes people set the forest on fire for such purposes. Commercial logging brought in money but also caused erosion and floods. Lack of water and bad quality drinking water became part of our daily problems. The provincial government and international NGOs started to organize workshops to create awareness and build capacity for positive change. I went there and we discussed alternatives for income generated by logging. With the help of conservation NGOs we started our Sisi Initiative, a Community based group of volunteers.

When we work in the local communities we tell them “Protecting biodiversity is not just about protecting birds or plants, it’s about protecting what’s rightfully yours, your children’s and your children’s children’s. What type of planet will our future generations be living in by 2020? Patience is a virtue and together with hard work and commitment, you’re sure to succeed and be recognized for the little things you do.” So slowly we started over the years to engage clan land owners in agreeing not to log for at least ten years and make a joint management plan for the forest. In return they would benefit from alternative livelihood schemes. That was a first step. We developed the next steps one by one, as success make success follow.    

Today they engage in beekeeping, sandalwood farming, yam cultivation, poultry. For women we have handicrafts training, e.g. basket weaving, jewelery making, pastry baking etc. With the help of the Forest Department the communities help restore the forest to reduce soil erosion. These are all small contributions to the larger goal of conserving our land as we received it from our ancestors. 

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