Partnership is the backbone of awareness drive and community mobilization in Vanuatu's Tagabe River Catchment.
Lead by the Pacific Community’s GEF-funded Vanuatu International Waters Ridge to Reef (R2R) Project, over 550 trees were planted by community members along Tagabe River and Blacksand Coasts in June to mark National Tree Planting Day, aimed at improving water supply and quality, livelihood production, riverbank stabilization, and flood control.
Vanuatu IWR2R Project Manager Ericksen Packett said: “The Tagabe River Catchment Area (TRCA) is currently the only source of potable water in Port Vila, providing water for residents, but also businesses, agriculture, manufacturing and industries.”
“The rapid urbanisation and increase in Port Vila’s population, the drive to increase tourism, and proliferation of infrastructure that will increase the connectivity of Port Vila to international and domestic markets, will increase per capita use of fresh water and subsequently intensify pressures on Port Vila’s water source,” he continued.
The Tagabe River Restoration Project began in 2018 concord from an agreement between the Department of Forestry and SPREP PEBACC Project to restore the riparian areas of Tagabe River. The Vanuatu IW R2R project signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the DOF in April this year as lead partner supporting the riparian restoration work. This partnership focused on the maintenance of nursery stock, tree collection and field planting through the course of the project.
Shefa Foretry Officer Judy Kalotap said: “Forest is a super-natural provider of wide range of goods and environmental services and Tagabe river is one of these valuable forests’ products.”
“Therefore, stabilization and protection along the Tagabe riparian areas are paramount concern for the department of Forests, and this important partnership with R2R supports mass tree planting initiatives and Awareness toktok on the importance of Forests biodiversity and ecosystems for the wellbeing and future of our communities,” she explained.
In the TRCA, forests and trees make an essential contribution to food security and live-hoods by helping to maintain the environmental conditions to which it plays an important role in the improvement of underground water quality. They stabilize the soil, prevent erosion, and enhance the land's capacity to store water among other things.
Community education and public awareness on the R2R concept and the significance of environmental and social inter-connectivity, and the role of forests in Tagabe in particular, engaged faith-based groups, youth and schools. Reinforcing the International Day of Forest theme, the national event shared the theme – “Forest and Biodiversity”.
Local school students were excited to participate in tree planting along the river banks. Vanuatu IW R2R Project, PEBACC Project, Department of Forestry Department, Tagabe River Management Committee, the Department of Environmental Protection and Conservation DEPC and the local community partnered in the restoration activities.
Development pressures including deforestation and land degradation has meant that water supply and quality also suffer. The importance of these effects has often been recognized in the past, but has been challenging to resolve. The linkages between upstream and downstream systems has meant that restoration of Tagabe River riparian areas cover Tagabe River upstream to Blacksand coastal waters through various rehabilitation projects that the R2R Project continues to support.