The Jobs for Nature (J-NR) Rehabilitation Program in Fiji is a conservation initiative aimed to integrate and collaborate the ecosystem restoration needs with the genuine needs of the country’s local communities. The program promotes ecosystem restoration projects such as reforestation, mangrove and seagrass restoration, riverbank and coastal protection, and degraded land rehabilitation using sustainable agricultural approaches.
The initiative was launched by the Environment Ministry of Fiji on June 21, 2021. Fiji Minister for Agriculture, Waterways and Environment Dr Mahendra Reddy while launching the program this morning said “Restoring damaged ecosystems is an efficient and cost-effective way in which people can work with nature to address the most pressing challenges humanity is facing today amidst the current global pandemic. Forests, grasslands, wetlands, and other terrestrial to inland water ecosystems, marine and coastal ecosystems are in dire need of some level of restoration, rehabilitation and protection.”
The Minister further stated that this program will divert rural communities from unsustainable practices and enable them to be the guardians of the environment and natural resources. “It is the Ministry’s effort and hope that this program will help and assist communities revitalize, restore and rebuild through nature-based employment and of course stimulate our economy as we fight and win over this Pandemic (COVID-19),” Dr Reddy added. The Minister also announced at the launch that the program in its first phase has a total budget of $150,000 allocated and a total of 150 awards will be made. The program, the first of its kind in Fiji as well as the Pacific region was launched in joint collaboration with the Adventist Development Relief Agency (ADRA) Fiji.
In August 2021, the Ministry of Environment announced 17 recipients under its Jobs for Nature (J-NR) programme, creating temporary employment for close to 170 Fijians across Fiji. The 17 recipients who were from the Ba, Rewa, Tuva and Labasa catchments submitted their proposals to the Ministry of Environment for biodiversity protection through reforestation, mangrove and sea grass restoration works, riverbank and coastal protection and rehabilitation of degraded land through sustainable farming practice. Dr. Mahendra Reddy while announcing the recipients stated that the J-NR programme adopts the concept of genuine partnerships and collaboration with local communities to support initiatives that promote the conservation and protection of Fiji’s environment. “It encourages environment stewardship and protection amongst Fiji’s citizen to actively engage in the protection, restoration and rehabilitation of their natural environment while they earn some allowance from it that supports their livelihood.”
“The objective of the J-NR is to better the state of the environment in our community through the protection, restoration and rehabilitation of degraded land and foreshore while supporting positive growth, stability and thriving livelihood. It is anticipated that the J-NR Programme while producing great ecosystem restoration outcomes will also deliver to the people of Fiji the job creation opportunity. The Ministry of Environment will also monitor and evaluate the programme and will work closely with communities to support all rehabilitation and conservation efforts for the benefit of all Fijians.
The program has been a success story in terms of realising its objectives. In March 2022, Dr Mahendra Reddy said that program has so far initiated 76 projects in Fiji which focus on environmental protection, restoration, rehabilitation and providing employment opportunities as part of the Ministry’s efforts post COVID-19 recovery. The program not only provides employment to local community groups but also rehabilitates and restores Fiji’s natural environment. He highlighted this while disbursing a second-round payment of $400 each to 29 recipients in Labasa. One significant aspect of this program is the positive participation of women. According to Dr Mahendra Reddy, “One of the intriguing features of this programme is that we have got majority women participation not by chance, not by accident, because they are closer to nature. They deal with nature on a daily basis and are very particular about gathering these resources from our biodiversity.”
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