Vanua: The heart of Fiji's coral reefs and culture
In Fiji, the word Vanua encompasses more than just a physical connection to the land and sea. It embodies the interconnected relationship between the people, the environment, and cultural heritage—a connection that transcends time, bridging the past, present, and future. Central to this intricate web of life are Fiji's coral reef ecosystems. Coral reefs are not merely physical entities; they are repositories of culture and ecological wisdom. They stand as living monuments to the deep, respectful connection between the Fijian people, their land, and the sea. Coral reefs are a key aspect of the Vanua, central to sustaining both nature and culture.
Beyond underpinning local culture, coral reefs are pivotal to Fiji's ocean life and coastal economy. These reefs are home to an astonishing array of marine species, serving as nurseries for commercially important fish and ensuring food security for local communities. The tourism industry, a cornerstone of Fiji's economy, thrives on the vibrant coral reefs, generating substantial revenue for local people and fostering economic growth. Furthermore, they act as natural barriers, protecting coastal communities, infrastructure, and farmland from the ravages of storms and erosion.
However, the health of Fiji's reefs is under threat. The primary local and anthropogenic threats faced by coral reefs in Fiji include the destruction and clearing of habitats, overfishing and unsustainable production, as well as solid and chemical waste. These threats harm both the coral reefs and the communities relying on them, resulting in reduced fish stocks, tourism income, and increased vulnerability of ecosystems and Fijian people to climate change impacts.
Matanataki’s GFCR deal flows
Recognising the critical urgency of safeguarding Fiji's coral reefs, the Global Fund for Coral Reefs (GFCR) Fiji programme, implemented in partnership with the United Nations Joint SDG Fund, the UNDP and local partners, is dedicated to addressing the local threats facing Fiji’s coral reefs. The UN Environment Programme is working closely with partners to implement a robust monitoring and evaluation framework to measure the social and ecological impacts of investments.
The GFCR-supported Fiji programme adopts an integrated ecosystem-based approach, wherein each initiative within the programme has distinct objectives and impact potential, exemplifying a holistic, reef-positive action for coral reef conservation and protection. The programme, “Investing in Coral Reefs and the Blue Economy”, encompasses a range of interventions, spanning sustainable agricultural practices to responsible waste management. Moreover, the GFCR collaborates closely with a consortium of local Fijian partners and private enterprises, leveraging local expertise, knowledge, and resources to enhance the programme's effectiveness.
Matanataki, as a key private sector partner of the GFCR in Fiji, plays a pivotal role in advancing this integrated ecosystem-based approach. Their commitment is demonstrated through their investment-ready deal flows, which are strategically selected and supported to address local threats causing coral reef degradation and unlock greater conservation funding, while generating revenues. These reef-positive enterprises, often resembling a supply-chain-like network, acknowledge that Fiji's coral reefs cannot thrive in isolation. Instead, their well-being is intricately tied to the broader health and vitality of the coastal ecosystems they are an integral part of, forging strong connections with both the terrestrial environment and sustainable practices of the local communities.
In Matantaki’s pipeline, seven reef-positive enterprises receive GFCR support:
- The Fertile Factory & Co. has set a goal to eliminate the import and use of synthetic fertilisers in Fiji by recycling green waste and manure to address waste issues and produce natural, organic fertilisers that enhance agricultural yields. Additionally, The Fertile Factory & School will provide subsidised education to farmers to ensure the reduction of coral reef damaging nutrient runoff from farms. To expand its operations to the Western Division of Fiji’s largest island, The Fertile Factory & Co requires an investment in the USD$5million+ range. The Fertile Factory & Co is one of the recipients of green waste that comes into Vulavula Sara, further emphasising the circular and eco-friendly approach in addressing waste and promoting sustainable practices in Fiji.
- Vulavula Sara, supported by indigenous Fijian landowners, diverts 130,000 metric tonnes of waste from coastal dumps annually, rejuvenating marine areas. GFCR is aiding in building a sanitary landfill, transfer stations, and a recycling centre. To expand its impact, the project requires an investment in the USD$10million+ range. Outcomes include reduced coastal dumping, 1,500 hectares of restored marine spawning areas, and strengthened global partnerships for sustainable waste management. It is complemented by a grant-financed dumpsite rehabilitation project first brought to the public’s attention and then developed by Matanataki.
- Mango Fish is a turn-key enclosed land-based aquaculture system that produces 1,000 metric tonnes of red tilapia annually, addressing Fiji's fish protein needs while reducing the pressure on its coral reefs. A portion of its revenue is devoted to establishing and managing coral gene banks and Locally Managed Marine Areas, safeguarding vital spawning zones, and ensuring that they remain resilient in the face of climate change. Mango Fish aims to secure a total investment in the USD$5million + range to establish and expand its enclosed land-based aquaculture system.
- Sealink Enterprises is a woman-owned aggregator in agriculture and fisheries. Their ethos centres on ethical sourcing and sustainable practices, and increasing food manufacturing capability in Fiji. Through partnerships with smallholder farmers and fishers, they not only enhance food security but also support women in the workplace. Sealink Enterprises requires an investment in the USD500k - 1million range to execute integrated land and marine use planning within its first year.
- Siga Damu Inc., owned by traditional guardians of the Great Sea Reef, aims to meet Asia's dried sea cucumber demand through regenerative mariculture while actively contributing to marine protection. They seek an investment in the USD $1million range to support their mariculture operations and the preservation of the Great Sea Reef ecosystem. This funding will support the establishment and execution of their mariculture operations, expansion of their supply chain, and commitment to preserving the Great Sea Reef ecosystem.
- Yavahuna Pte Ltd operates as a limited liability company dedicated to implementing regenerative practices across agriculture, fisheries, and eco-tourism sectors. With a substantial investment in the USD$1million+ range, Yavahuna engages in a comprehensive range of initiatives such as conducting invasive seaweed removal and undertaking coral restoration efforts. Notably, Yavahuna will supply sargassum to The Fertile Factory & Co, another Matanataki GFCR investment, to create organic-certified fertilisers.
The GFCR’s active involvement in supporting Matanataki to prepare deal flow has enabled this women-led company to evolve into fund management: Matanataki is currently raising a dedicated investment fund, and is part of the latest 2XGlobal cohort supporting women fund managers reaching their first close.
Restoring health to Fiji’s Vanua
In response to the growing threats faced by coral reefs worldwide, these initiatives in Fiji are supported by GFCR in concurrence to expand and diversify available resources for sustainability. Through public and private collaboration, these collective efforts not only protect valuable natural resources but also create economic opportunities and enhance the resilience of Fijian communities, highlighting a shared commitment to safeguarding the environment and promoting local well-being. They represent a vital demonstration of market-led solutions for coral reef conservation on the ground across sectors, scales and sizes.
The GFCR-supported programme in Fiji represents a pivotal part of the GFCR's wider global portfolio. Currently operating in 14 countries, the GFCR aims to expand its reach to 23 countries by mid-2024. By scaling up its operations and partnerships, the GFCR aims to create a more resilient future for coral reefs globally, catalysing sustainable conservation efforts and ensuring the long-term health of these vital underwater ecosystems.
This article is a collaborative effort, with significant input from Matanataki's writings and insights gathered from discussions. For further information on investment opportunities in Fiji please contact Jodi Smith, Matanataki: jodi [at] matanataki.com.
About the Global Fund for Coral Reefs
The Global Fund for Coral Reefs (GFCR) is the first and only blended finance vehicle dedicated to coral reefs globally. Hosting both a Grant Fund and an Investment Fund, the GFCR is designed to scale financial solutions and blue economic transition that bolsters the resilience of coral reefs and the communities that depend on them. GFCR focuses on incubating and scaling financial interventions and enterprises that address local drivers of coral reef degradation, unlock conservation funding flows, and increase communities’ adaptive capacities.
The GFCR Coalition is a public-private partnership driven by Member States, UN Agencies, financial institutions, philanthropies, impact investors and organisations. The GFCR Coalition includes the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation; Fondation Prince Albert II de Monaco; Minderoo Foundation ; the Governments of Germany, France, Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom; the Green Climate Fund; Pegasus Capital Advisors; Builders Vision; Bloomberg Philanthropies; the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF); the UN Environment Programme (UNEP); the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN); the Ocean Risk and Resilience Action Alliance (ORRAA) and the Coral Research & Development Accelerator Platform (CORDAP).
Originally published by Global Fund for Coral Reef
The Joint SDG Fund's joint programmes are under the prestige leadership of the Resident Coordinator Office and implementing United Nations Agencies. With sincere appreciation for the contributions from the European Union and Governments of Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Monaco, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and our private sector funding partners, for a transformative movement towards achieving the SDGs by 2030.