The ocean is facing increasing threats, from old foes and new threats: pollution, unsustainable fishing, habitat loss and degradation, invasive species introductions and climate change. With climate change, these effects are exacerbated by ocean acidification, ocean warming and ocean deoxygenation.
It can be hard to feel optimistic.
But in Fiji, action is the antidote to despair.
The UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji is collaborating with the Fijian Government to make the use of ocean resources for economic growth more sustainable.
Victor, Eli, and Junior from Reef Explorer, establishing a coral rope nursery. Photo: Reef Explorer Fiji
It’s in the BAGS
The ‘blue economy’ picks up from the ‘green economy’ and translates those principles to the marine environment.
In Fiji, this blue economy transformation is being achieved via the Blue Accelerator Grant Scheme (BAGS), funded by UNDP, and implemented in collaboration with the Fijian Government’s Drua Incubator – a financial mechanism designed to pilot transformative climate and disaster risk solutions. The BAGS was conceptualized during the structuring of Fiji’s first ever sovereign blue bond scheduled for issuance in 2023 and 2024, to create a pipeline of transformative and innovative projects that reflect Fiji’s blue economy ambitions.
The grant scheme is working to support civil society, private businesses, cooperatives, and non-governmental organizations across the country who have developed promising blue economy projects.
The drua is Fiji’s traditional sailing ship, and a perfect emblem of the marriage of the country’s maritime heritage with modern sustainable development principles.
Photo: Uto Ni Yalo
Meet the 8 projects
The projects that have been selected through the BAGS are being given tailored support from the Drua Incubator, UNDP’s Inclusive Growth team, the Accelerator Lab in the Pacific, and key partners from the private sector.
1. Towards a New Sustainable Marine-Based Industry for Fiji and the Pacific: Island Suitable Boatbuilding Training:
Recognizing the need to unlock the economic potential of Fiji’s 110 inhabited maritime islands, The Centre for Appropriate Technology & Development (CATD) in Nadave, in collaboration with world renowned boat builders HarryProa, have set out to develop reliable, renewable, and affordable maritime vessels.
The vessels are expected to connect maritime islands using small-scale cargo and passenger services up to three to four times a week, using sail and solar-hybrid propulsion systems.
This project aims to not only develop large-scale vessels, but also develop a boat building curriculum at CATD, and build boats to support mainly women fishers to safely and efficiently fish in deeper waters.
This trailblazing project is expected to revitalize a once vibrant boat building industry in Fiji and create green qualifications through accredited CATD boatbuilding courses. Vessels are already being pre-ordered by hotels, NGOs and private enthusiasts.
2. Navakavu Ecotourism Park and Mangroves:
Designed to become a major ecological attraction just outside of Fiji’s capital city of Suva, this project will create Fiji’s first ever mangrove eco walk. To conserve nearly 200 rugby fields worth of mangrove forest and create the Navakavu Ecotourism & Mangrove Sanctuary Nature Park (including operations and working capital), the people of Yavusa Navakavu have contributed nearly 200ha of land, plus an additional 0.4ha of land to be utilized for this eco-tourism and mangrove protection project.
The project is expected to empower local landowners to protect and preserve their natural assets while generating revenue at the same time. It is expected to create an interactive nature-based attraction for tourists, locals and schoolchildren while also being a hub for events, conferences and research activities based on long term plan to develop an over water conference and research facility.
3. Leaf Capital Public Trading Enterprise Fiji: Green Mobility Project:
Recognizing that the same technologies that have made electric cars and trucks so successful on land could bring about a revolution in maritime transport, the project is helping to build Fiji’s first-ever electric charging station network and e-taxi service.
Having already installed three public charging stations, Leaf Capital Pte Limited is expected to install another four charging stations along the Suva to Lautoka highway (the busiest in Fiji) through the BAGS.
The project is also working to establish portside charging solutions for small scale outboard vessels. The ultimate goal is catalyse the retrofitting of 2- and 4-stroke outboard motors to electric systems that can be charged on multiple islands.
4. SeaPac Limited: Pioneering Sustainable Prawn and Fish Tank Farming in Fiji:
For a country blessed with bounteous marine resources, it is surprising to note that Fiji is dependent on imported marine products, such as prawns and fin fish, to meet local and tourist demand.
This project will revitalize Fiji’s aquaculture sector by rolling out affordable tank-based aquaculture solutions that minimize land use change, expedite uptake by small holder farmers, and create a ‘hub and spoke’ approach to aquaculture in Fiji.
The project will support SeaPac to improve its prawns and tilapia brood stock in collaboration with the Fijian Ministry of Fisheries, improve its larvae incubation facilities, support the supply of larvae to smallholder farmers, and provide a guaranteed market using a buyback scheme.
5. Sustainable Sea Transport Initiative: A Sustainable Sailing Cargo Proa for Fiji and the Pacific:
Recognizing the need to develop a robust maritime transport sector in Fiji, this project seeks to develop comprehensive maritime data sets and models to support business case development for projects such as that being run by CATD (mentioned above) and Uto-Ni-Yalo/Talanoa Treks (mentioned below).
The Sustainable Sea Transport Initiative (SSTI) is one of the very few local agencies dedicated to supporting R&D, specializing in smart logistics, in the maritime sector. Through this project, SSTI will identify and test pilot maritime routes to ascertain freight and passenger transport requirements to remote islands. This will be used to support scale-up of the CATD project, support the Uto-Ni-Yalo/Talanoa Treks project to generate revenue apart from tourist fees, and inform portside charging infrastructure development led by Leaf Capital.
6. J Hunter Pearls Fiji: Savusavu Community Edible Pearl Oyster Farms:
The project will create Fiji’s first ever edible oyster product for export markets in the United States and Asia. Understanding that sustainable development is an important tool in marine conservation, alleviating poverty and building sustainable use of ocean resources, communities in Fiji will partner with J Hunter Marine to pilot a powerful model of Fiji’s Blue Economy that will create jobs while increasing food security.
The partnership will bring environmentally sustainable, community-owned and -operated aquaculture to numerous Fijian communities. J Hunter will empower transitional community-based farming of seaweed and oysters in traditional (qoliqolio) waters and buy back the produce at attractive prices.
7. Willis Towers Watson: Innovative Risk Financing to support Reef Ecosystem Conservation and Protection in Fiji:
Fiji is the 26th largest ocean state, with a 1.3m km2 exclusive economic zone, over 65,000 hectares of mangroves, and 3.52 percent of the world’s coral reef population. Over 70 percent of the country’s population lives within five kilometres of the shoreline. This project seeks to replicate the success of Willis Towers Watson’s (WTW) insurance solutions in Mexico and the Caribbean through the Mesoamerican Reef Fund to develop a fit-for-purpose reef insurance package for Fiji.
Through this Project, WTW is expected to conduct reef modelling exercises on selected reef systems of high priority in Fiji and pilot the reef insurance product. The Fijian Government, in collaboration with UNDP, WTW and other partners are expected to raise funds for premium support to help scale up this innovative insurance mechanism. Target buyers of this insurance are expected to be hotel operators, community cooperative, philanthropies, and other stakeholders seeking to protect and conserve coral reefs.
8. Talanoa Treks and the Uto ni Yalo Trust: Creating Fiji's Ocean Trail
This project will support the development of Fiji’s first ever integrated ocean trail, showcasing Fiji’s breath-taking marine ecosystem, traditional sailing solutions, and the rich connection Fijian communities have with the ocean. The project will connect sustainable tourism operators with environmental groups to establish a sustainable Ocean Trail.
Working with the Duavata Sustainable Tourism Collective, which has developed a network of 15 small to medium operators that share common values of working with resource owners to manage their vanua (land) and qoliqoli (inshore waters) through genuine and respectful partnerships. Talanoa Treks and the Uto ni Yalo Trust will connect these sustainable tourism operators.
The sustainable use of ocean, seas, and marine resources, as set out in SDG 14, lies at the centre of a sustainable blue economy.
In recent years, the concept of a Blue Economy has emerged as a significant potential driver of sustainable economic growth, especially for Small Island Developing States (SIDS), like Fiji.
As custodians of 19.1 percent of the world’s Exclusive Economic Zones, embracing the blue economy can help SIDS harness their unique advantages to address their structural challenges and common vulnerabilities.
The Blue Accelerator Grant Scheme is building partnerships between government, industry, science, and civil society, putting knowledge, technology and finance into action.
These innovative projects will help protect the environment and tackle the root causes of environmental degradation, create innovative financing mechanisms, and use digital technologies to diversify the country’s ocean economic sectors.
This article is originally published by UNDP Pacific Office.