Fiji

REAP Anticipatory Action: The Enabling Environment Case Studies (Fiji) - 9 December, 2021

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Context

Fiji, classified as upper middle income, is one of the largest and most developed of the Pacific Island Countries (PIC) . It is an archipelago of 332 islands, 106 of which are inhabited with a majority of the approx. 865,000 people residing on the two largest islands of Viti Levu and Vanua Levu. The country is located on the tropical cyclone belt and experiences an average of one cyclone per year. The climate of the Asia-Pacific islands is generally tropical and annually uniform although is strongly sensitive to the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) (UNEP et al. 2000). This influences the frequency of extreme weather events and has an impact on the skill (accuracy over time) of forecasts and potential lead times for early warning systems (Bailey, 2016). It is predicted that climate change will usher in changes in the ‘regional climate system’, especially the ENSO. El Nino is believed to be the warm side of the oscillation, which could result in harsh droughts. Fiji’s exposure to natural hazards could be amplified by climate change. The country experiences, on average, one cyclone per year and is exposed to other natural hazards, including floods, droughts, landslides, tsunamis, earthquakes, and volcanoes (ADB, 2019). It is estimated that disasters propel an average of three percent of the population into poverty each year (IFRC, 2019).

The most severe meteorological drought for Fiji started during the neutral ENSO phase and later continued when 2015–2016 El Niño started. This drought ended at the same time Tropical Cyclone (TC) Winston landed in Fiji, thereby making recovery from drought conditions very difficult. The impacts of dryness and longer-lasting droughts on food insecurity due to crop failure are felt particularly strongly in the isolated islands that are dependent on local food production. On February 20th 2016, TC Winston (Category 5) was the most intense on record in the country and caused widespread devastation, reportedly impacting 60 percent of the population. It is estimated that the costs amounted to US$0.9 billion, approximately 20 percent of GDP (Mansur et al., 2017). On the same day, a state of natural disaster was declared followed by a state of emergency. In April 2020 TC Harold (Category 4) caused destructive flooding on Viti Levu and significant damage to Kadavu island, Vatulele and Southern Lau islands (IFRC, 2021). Later in December 2020 TC Yasa (Category 5) made landfall on Vanua. Shortly after in January 2021, TC Ana (Category 2) impacted Northern Fiji and compounded humanitarian needs resulting from the first cyclone. According to the Government, Cyclone Yasa caused an estimated loss of almost US$250 million to infrastructure, livelihoods and agriculture. The total damage for the agriculture sector, which accounts for 15 percent of GDP4 was assessed to be more than US$72.5 million (RNZ, 2021) .

In addition, the country faces major environmental challenges, including deforestation6 , unsustainable fishing practices. Rising sea levels has led to the erosion of Fiji’s coastal areas, and the intrusion of saltwater has destroyed farmland and forced residents to move to safer ground.

Administratively, the country is divided into Northern, Eastern, Central and Western divisions which are governed by a commissioner for the coordination of government activities. These divisions consist of 14 provinces, headed by Provincial Officers (Roko Tui) at the local government levels, which are operating under the direction of the Ministry of Local Government, Housing and Environment.