Landscape Story

Natewa Peninsula

Natewa-Tunuloa Peninsula

The socio-ecological production landscape identified for COMDEKS activities in Fiji is the Natewa-Tunuloa Peninsula, covering an area of 25,243 hectares. The target area is located on the island of Vanua Levu, one of the two largest islands that comprise Fiji. The landscape lies in the south-eastern section of the island and borders the southern coastline of Natewa Bay, the longest bay in the South Pacific. The priority landscape encompasses the two districts of Natewa and Tunuloa. Both districts are collectively part of the Cakaudrove Province, one of the fourteen provinces making up Fiji and falls under the country’s northern division of administration.

The Natewa-Tunuloa Peninsula was chosen as the target landscape for the COMDEKS project firstly due to the status of the landscape’s terrestrial and marine environments as national and global biodiversity hotspots. The overall landscape however remains poorly studied and researched and faces increasing threats from both environmental and human sources such as climate change and poor forest and land-use practices.

Secondly, COMDEKS efforts to address the issue of poverty and need for viable income options for community livelihoods within the landscape aligns with Fiji’s National Look North Policy and Vanua Levu Development Plan (VLDP). The landscape presently lacks the diverse presence of organisations and community project types prevalent in other rural areas in Fiji. It is hoped that through the intervention of COMDEKS activities, the landscape profile will be raised to facilitate and garner more local government and organizational support toward improving the area’s social infrastructure and sustainable enterprise development and investment.

Thirdly, this landscape also provides for an opportunity to document and revive traditional practices, meld local traditional knowledge and practices with modern innovations, concepts, and technology to invigorate the landscape and its communities, and upscale best practices and lessons learnt through the community projects implemented within the target landscape.

Biological Impact

Natewa Bay

Natewa Bay

The target socio-ecological production landscape was assigned as a Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) by Conservation International in 2005. It has also been designated as an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International, and identified as a Site of National Significance in the National Biodiversity Action Plan. The range of bird species found in the target landscape is significant, including the presence of seven of the nine subspecies endemic to Vanua Levu island, such as the Silktail (Lamprolia victoriae). Furthermore the Buca River system on the Natewa-Tunuloa Peninsula has high diversity of amphidromous gobies (Gobiidae family), at least a third of the endemic species of Fiji being present here, and the largest breeding population of the endemic Orange-Spotted Scaleless Goby, Schismatogobius chrysonotus.

The landscape has been listed as a site of national significance under Fiji National Biodiversity Action Plan (NBSAP) and prioritised for conservation due to the area being one of the last few places in Fiji which retains forest with an intact range from lowland to montane habitats. The combination of climate and topography provides for various natural terrestrial habitats and ecosystems, from littoral coastal shrub-land and mangroves, to low and montane forests. However, the area is threatened by landscape degradation due to poorly planned logging activities, agricultural developments, and mahogany plantations. These activities have reduced the extent of connected landscapes and suitable habitats for several endemic bird species in the area, leading to increasing threats to their extinction. Also, the construction of several roads in the area have increased access to agricultural pests and other invasive species which have become problematic to the native species of the island.

Socio-Economic Impact

The population of the Natewa and Tunuloa districts is 3,428 comprised of a male population of 1,753 and female population of 1,675 and the area has a relatively low population density of 13.6 persons per km2. Indigenous Fijians (iTaukei) make up 97.8%, whilst Fijians of Indian descent (0.4%) and Fijians of other ethnicities (1.8%) make up the remainder. Households are largely multi-generational with on average three or four generations residing together. In terms of landscape demographics the population is primarily agrarian, predominately indigenous, and contained within 16 traditional rural village settlements. This chief led traditional governance system is still very active in decision making processes during village and district meetings regarding the welfare and development of communities in the landscape.

Industry within the landscape is almost non-existent, local communities in the area derive their income mainly from agriculture (dalo, kava, yagona, and copra). Forests are used for firewood, wild foods, hunting, traditional medicines and timber for the construction of local housing. Since the 1950s the area has been a major timber producing area from both native forest and pine plantation.  Unsustainable resource use and agricultural practices have led to forest resources being slowly depleted threatening future food security and landscape resilience. Generally much of what is cultivated in the area is for subsistence consumption. Additionally, recent water issues due to compromised water sources have highlighted a general decline in health and hygiene practices. Typhoid outbreaks have frequently featured within villages in the Tunuloa district and Buca Village within Natewa, highlighting major efforts needed to improve conditions. Record on poverty incidence for the landscape population is significantly high; surveys conducted in 2009 indicate 62% of the total population from the two districts falling within this category.

Baseline Assessment

In February 2013, Birdlife International, one of the very few NGO’s active within the landscape, and the grantee selected to conduct the landscape-wide baseline assessment, carried out a scoping assessment of the target area.  Key stakeholder groups (including government, NGOs and communities) in all 16 villages within the two districts of Natewa and Tunuloa were visited and consulted to collate the relevant information that would contribute to a more comprehensive baseline assessment of the landscape. Landscape stakeholders met to discuss landscape threats, issues, and active community projects, priorities, committees, and structures, and identify critical issues for the development of a landscape strategy aimed at enhancing the socio-ecological resilience of the target landscape.

As part of the baseline assessment and community consultation process, COMDEKS Fiji piloted the set of Indicators for Resilience in Socio-Ecological Production Landscape and Seascapes (SEPLS), developed by IPSI members Bioversity International and UNU-IAS to help measure and understand the resilience of target landscapes and seascapes. The practical application of the indicators during the baseline assessment was conducted in the Natewa Village. Key stakeholders were identified from various agencies and organizations and community representatives in the target area. Two persons from each of the sixteen villages were nominated to participate in the assessment by the Provincial Office based on community standing and influence. During the scoring exercise, participants were broken into three groups, one group comprising the government and NGO representatives, and remaining two groups containing community representatives from each of the two districts within the landscape, Natewa and Tunuloa respectively. Participants individually answered a series of twenty perception based questions which corresponded with four landscape indicator themes: Ecosystem protection; Agricultural biodiversity; Knowledge, learning, and innovation; Social equity and infrastructure. The data results were collected and analyzed by district groupings and as a consolidated group. Participants were then asked to discuss and identify ideal community actions and activities that could improve landscape resilience in successive years and contribute to the long term sustainability of their landscape.

The baseline assessment led to the preparation of a COMDEKS Country Programme Landscape Strategy for Fiji, a comprehensive document which outlines the landscape profile, expected goals and outcomes, and key measures and strategies for community-based actions.

Landscape Strategy

The vision of the COMDEKS Programme in Fiji is to “protect, restore and sustainably manage the Natewa-Tunuloa SEPL natural assets to sustain and guarantee the perpetuation of heritage, livelihoods, resilience, and opportunities for current and future communities within the landscape.” The overall long-term objective of the COMDEKS Programme Landscape Strategy is to “enhance socio-ecological production landscape resilience through community based activities”.

The COMDEKS Country Programme will work toward achieving the following outcomes:

Outcome 1: Critical ecosystems and habitats within the landscape are protected, restored, or effectively placed under an acceptable and recognized sustainable natural resource management regime.

Outcome 2: Agricultural biodiversity and productivity within the landscape is maintained and enhanced through sustainable land use practices and approaches.

Outcome 3: Local livelihoods sensitive to maintaining landscape natural assets within a sustainable exploitation context is enhanced, improved, and replicated through community driven income generation and development initiatives.

Outcome 4: Institutional and local community capacity strengthened to enhance participatory planning on conservation, sustainable production issues affecting landscape resilience.

Country Projects

Both the findings generated by the landscape baseline assessment and consultations carried out with key landscape stakeholders were used to identify eligible projects with strong potential to enhance the resilience of the socio-ecological production landscape for Fiji and anticipated outcomes for Fiji, and contribute to realizing the Satoyama Initiative’s vision of “societies in harmony with nature”.

Eligible projects are expected to demonstrate effective protection or rehabilitation of existing natural biodiversity within the landscape and an improvement in the promotion of sustainable agricultural practices. Projects should integrate local knowledge and modern tested approaches and innovations as well as enhance a multi-faceted approach to achieving COMDEKS outcomes. Ultimately, projects are intended to build knowledge, improve local socio-economies, and strengthen local capacities for self-management and long term sustainability. Examples of projects that would be considered include restoration of buffer strips or natural vegetation near community water sources, promotion of organic farming and agroforestry, traditional taro irrigation system, and traditional mulberry cloth production, support to District and Land Use Planning to address development needs with reference to natural resource management and improved utilisation of land, and training aimed at strengthening local networks and improving stakeholder planning.

Each COMDEKS grantee will be expected to generate and document project best practices and lessons learnt. Community grantees will be encouraged to document their project experiences, activities, and outcomes.

New! COMDEKS Country Programme Landscape Strategy can be downloaded here.


Natewa-Tunuloa Peninsula


Project Contact

Ms. Katarina Atalifo
Sub-Regional / National Coordinator
Phone: +(679) 3310 541
Fax: +(679) 3310540

Ms. Sholto Fanifau
Programme Assistant
Phone: +(679) 3310541
Fax: +(679) 3310540

Ms. Vasiti Navuku
Programme Assistant

C/O UNDP Fiji,  Private Mail Bag, Suva