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C3 Internship Review – Charlotte Bennett – Fiji 2011

July 15, 2011

After graduating in 2010 with a BSc in Oceanography with Physical Geography, I knew that conservation is the field in which I want to pursue a career.I began to sift through the potential opportunities to gain the international experience that is so essential. Discarding any companies advertising divemaster opportunities, I stumbled across Community Centred Conservation a small NGO well established in Madagascar and around the Indian Ocean, promoting a strong emphasis on community involvement in all conservation efforts. I applied to the upcoming Fiji and the South Pacific Islands programme which was about to start in Northern Fiji.

And so my home for the 5 months became Yaro village, on a tiny island, North of Macuata. With only has 27 households and a population of approximately 150 it is needless to say that by the time you have been in the village for 1 month, you know everyone. All the Fijians, men and women alike, have a wicked sense of humor and seem to be endlessly carefree regardless of their situation, making them a pleasure to be around. There is also a small army of children under 6 that patrol every inch of the village and although in the beginning they would run away crying at the sight of you, they are the cutest and cheekiest children you will ever meet.

After living on the island for sometime it becomes apparent that despite the apparent tropical paradise, the community face many issues which make day to day life exceedingly difficult. The major problem being the lack of water on the island, with no rivers or alternative sources of freshwater, the Kia population depends entirely on rainwater for drinking, cooking, bathing and washing. Water is collected in storage tanks and bathing ponds are used for cleaning people and clothes. During the dry season when there are extended periods without rainfall the majority of water sources dry out in the space of 1 month, this poses a serious threat to the islanders. However they have fully adapted and there are a number of methods they employ to minimize the effects and they are incredibly resourceful with water all year round.

During this time we were working to make plans for the upcoming quarter whilst battling with lack of Internet connection and limited access to electricity. The C3 programmes which kicked off during the first 5 months were Reef Rangers, setting up a waste management programme, writing and conducting SOCMON surveys, coastal planting, fishery catch surveys, recording traditional environmental knowledge (TEK) and assessing the potential alternative livelihoods. On top of this I was involved in teaching English, setting up bank accounts and after school homework assistance.

The work was incredibly rewarding especially knowing the you are planting the seeds for a 5 year long programme which is designed to benefit the people whilst tackling serious environmental issues. And it was this reason that I chose to prolong my internship for a further 2 months past my initial 3. Working with Maleli our programme officer and the various interns and masters students who were on Kia at the same time as me has proven to be an invaluable experience; it has presented me with a good understanding of the difficulties NGO’s experience and the ways in which they function. The raw cultural experience combined with C3 work has given me a wealth of both scientific and applied knowledge that cannot fail to push me ahead in the competitive world of conservation.

Additionally, as cliché as it may seem, this was an experience I will never forget, I have made countless remarkable friends within the village and the camaraderie between the programme officer and myself makes me miss Kia everyday.


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