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Conservation Communication in Fiji

20 Apr 2012

Biodiversity conservation in Fiji is largely carried out by international Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) who provide valuable resources, yet have been unable to affect enough changes to halt Fiji's biodiversity crisis. Their interests tend be in short term projects and thus cannot be squarely in line with those of Fiji's natural resource owners, who can only truly benefit through long-term sustainability. A local biodiversity conservation organisation, NatureFiji-MareqetiViti (NFMV), was founded in 2007 to counter such uncertainties surrounding the international control of local conservation.All NGOs working in Fiji must communicate their messages to the public through a variety of audience-specific channels, as part of a communications strategy that recognises the need to craft messages separately according to an audience's interests. Promoting global goals of biodiversity conservation may satisfy the interests of donor organisations which are vital to NGOs' survival, however promoting the conservation of Fiji's natural resources for human benefit and focusing on human dependence upon the environment, which is part of Fiji's traditional knowledge, can engender better, faster results when working with local communities or aiming to attract local volunteers. Fijian society is largely rural and traditional, with traditions surrounding natural resource use that were firmly in place centuries ago still being followed today. A recent decline in traditional knowledge, management and authority has led to less sustainable resource use practices. Problems introduced by development and the spread of Western culture include forest destruction putting species at risk, monoculture cropping lessening food security and unsustainable agriculture leading to marine degradation. An emphasis on traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) within NGO communications strategies is recommended to improve long-term sustainability. A local conservation NGO is best placed to do this through extensive local knowledge and the ability to form long-term partnerships with Fijian communities. Although the rural nature of Fijian society implicates the presence of a digital divide, the employment of new media by conservation NGOs, including by NFMV, may work to connect them with a growing digital audience, in particular the younger generation who are increasingly found to lack an understanding of their natural environment. By taking a closer look at their communications strategy and embracing both traditional and modern channels of communication, conservation NGOs might better transfer their knowledge to Fiji's population and in doing so, eventually achieve their overarching goal of turning the tide on biodiversity loss.

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