On Wednesday 6 December, INBAR’s Secretariat was delighted to welcome Hon. Mereseini Vuniwaqa, Fiji’s Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation. Minister Vuniwaqa and a delegation – which included Dr. Josefa Koroivueta, the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary; Dr. Maria Doton, President of the Ba Women’s Forums; as well as representatives from the Embassy of Fiji in Beijing and the All-China Women’s Federation – visited INBAR Headquarters.
This is not the first time INBAR has worked with Fiji. In November this year, INBAR was also proud to co-host a side event with the Government of Fiji at UNFCCC COP23, ‘Bamboo for Climate Change Action in Small Island Developing States’. The event highlighted the potential of bamboo in Fiji and similar low-lying islands, which are vulnerable to the threat of climate change. Minister Vuniwaqa spoke at the event about Fiji’s climate change challenges, and the importance of women’s empowerment and poverty alleviation as tools to strengthen resilience.
On Wednesday, Minister Vuniwaqa and her delegation were given a tour of INBAR’s bamboo and rattan showroom (main picture). Following the tour, they sat with INBAR Director General Dr Hans Friederich to discuss bamboo’s potential for Fiji.
Dr Friederich introduced INBAR’s work, and a few of the ways that bamboo can help Fiji and other Pacific states: as a tool for poverty relief, typhoon-resilient construction, soil and coastal conservation, and bioenergy. All of these areas, Dr Friederich stressed, were very important for Fiji, which is particularly vulnerable to global sea level rise and other climate change impacts.
In the following discussion, Minister Vuniwaqa commented that she was particularly impressed with bamboo’s usefulness as a tool for women’s employment. She mentioned that there had been little training or capacity building for people, including women, to make value-added products using bamboo, and was impressed at the potential range of products. Although Fiji does use bamboo to make products, such as traditional rafts and some furniture, the vast potential of this domestically growing plant is untapped.
INBAR and the delegation also discussed the benefits and logistics of becoming a Member of INBAR. As Hans stressed, the exact services for each Member depend on the country itself, and the bamboo and rattan resources they possess. One particularly important service for Fiji would be INBAR’s training and capacity-building programmes. Hans also mentioned the ability for Fiji to become part of the Global Assessment for Bamboo and Rattan, and next year’s Bamboo and Rattan Congress.
Secretary Dr. Koroivueta finished by thanking INBAR, and expressing his hope that they would see INBAR in Fiji soon. Fiji is considering membership of INBAR, and is excited about the possibilities bamboo offers for women’s empowerment and employment. As Secretary Koroivueta said: “When women are in the front, things get moving.” This is certainly something that bamboo can help with.