South Pacific Projects is committed to creating training and employment opportunities for our community partners. By offering community representatives the opportunity to come to our site and take part fully in the 6 week programme that we offer volunteers, we provide the knowledge, training and methods that can help our community Marine Scholars to make a difference.
Our scholarship programme is also available to the staff members of our project partners and students from the University of the South Pacific. The additional experience and training offered is invaluable, creating a stronger bond between ourselves and our partners further and advancing conservation efforts in our host country. The benefits of hosting scholarship participants is mutual, the knowledge and skill our staff and volunteers obtain from our partners and community members is extensive, rapidly increasing the development and success of the project.
In 2009 we hosted five scholarship candidates, including representatives from the Fisheries Department and the University of The South Pacific; in 2011 we aim to surpass our previous efforts. We also hosted Taioni Vakamoce Delai from Daku village during the second expedition of 2009 as our first community Scholar and due to his commitment and skill, he became a full time staff member and a vital component of our team in Fiji. We will continue to search for and train select community members and employ them as SPP staff in the future.
Beginning in 2011, we will be kicking off two new environmental awareness programmes. One will be at the Primary School on Bau Island for the years 7 and 8 students (10-12 years old). During 2009 SPP staff members and volunteers developed a syllabus that built on the science curriculum set by the Ministry of Education, furthering their environmental education. Every week volunteers travelled to schools, promoting a different topic and pushing valuable environmental messages to the young students. Our aim in 2011 is to increase the knowledge of environmental issues and empower the children with a greater sense of respect and ownership for their local environment. The second new project involves a new research and conservation project that we are supporting at Moon Reef in partnership with the local communities and the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society.
Community empowerment is critical to our project goals; we want to ensure that we work together with the community on every facet of the project so that that they do not become dependent on our actions and presence. It is not our policy to distribute funds directly to communities but to help them to research and source sustainable alternative sources of livelihood, providing different revenue streams besides the value of their marine resources. There are generally few opportunities for initiating alternative sources of income in developing countries; the amount of resources it requires to start a new business far exceeds the logistical capabilities of most Fijian families. By helping Fijian communities initiate sustainable alternative sources of revenue we also aspire to help alleviate some of the pressure placed on the local marine resources. Without diverting the demands experienced by the marine environment there is little chance of a successful rehabilitation of the reef. Therefore, a significant portion of our community empowerment is tied in with the development of new sustainable tourism initiatives.