Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) is regarded globally as the best means of addressing the diverse complex challenges and issues facing the management and utilisation of water resources. However, there have been difficulties in the application of IWRM in a number of countries in the world. There are diverse reasons why this is so but one of the underlying factors that s not been examined in depth is the role of values in IWRM.
In the current water resource management paradigm, non-quantifiable values such as social, cultural, indigenous, spiritual and religious values are acknowledged but are rarely incorporated in the decision making process. In other words, a variety of values have been acknowledged and accommodated in current natural resources and water management but economic values have a higher priority or weighting when it comes to decision making and options. This is reflected in principle in four of the five IWRM Dublin-Rio principles of Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) where the economic value of water is explicitly spelt out as one of the key principles with other values implicitly existing as an offshoot and secondary to the dominant economic imperative. Thus there have been difficulties in the application of IWRM in a number of developing countries around the world. It has been argued that developing country experiences show that despite the theoretical value of a concept like IWRM, importing it into countries at different stages of their development, with vastly different value systems, political cultures, social systems, knowledge levels, qualified personnel and financial resources can lead to a host of new problems without solving the existing land and water management problems. Therefore, the knowledge gaps that this thesis is addressing the role of cultural and indigenous values in relation to the management of water resources in developing country like Fiji where 83 per cent of the land (including all catchment land areas) is owned by the indigenous Fijians (iTaukei). There has been very little study conducted to identify the role of cultural values of water resources within theframework of IWRM. There is a need to find out where cultural and indigenous values in relation to water resources would be appropriately placed or accounted for in IWRM, so that they have equal standing with economic values when it comes to policy and decision making processes.
The study of water and indigenous Fijian values was conducted at the IWRM pilot project site in Fiji which is the Nadi basin catchment in the western part of Fiji’s main island, Viti Levu. Five communities participated in the study. Four of the communities were indigenous Fijian communities and the other was a non-indigenous community comprised mainly of people of Indian descent. Three of these of indigenous communities have strong cultural connection with water.
The aims of the study are to: identify and document Fijian cultural (vanua) values that are potentially relevant for water management; and suggest ways of integrating water values and vanua values in the integrated water resource management framework. The key questions related to these aims are: the identification of the types of values that people in the study catchments assign to water; the role and attributes embedded in the vanua system and how these are expressed in the management of water resources; the role of water values for sustainable practices and for potential inclusion within an IWRM framework; and the potential benefits and disadvantages of including the vanua value system into IWRM and what might be the practicalities of implementing their inclusion.
A mixed method approach was applied. Data were gathered through focus group interviews, observation, participatory valuation workshops and a survey in three indigenous communities on their water use patterns. The focus group interviews elicited the values that were assigned to water. The participatory valuation workshops elicited the vanua values and how these relate to water, then tested a culturally-appropriate financial valuation approach to place a dollar value on each litre of water used for different purposes in the upper and middle catchment where water is not charged for, but a firm basis is needed for securing community investment in system maintenance. For this reason a meaningful process for quantifying the monetary value of water use was needed which is socially and culturally accepted by the communities.
The types of value assigned to water that were identified from the study were: life sustaining; ecological; recreational; transportation; religious; economic; and cultural values of water. The key vanua values identified in the participatory valuation workshops that were relevant to water management were: solesolevaki which is communal co-operation; yalovata which is communal cohesiveness; the mana or supernatural gift of ‘controlling’ water; the role of icavuti or totems (e.g. water (wai) and fresh water eels) in the protection of their water resources; customary leadership that adheres to good governance principles; maintaining a healthy lifestyle in terms of hygiene and sanitation; ‘veikauwaitaki’ which is to act with consideration and ‘veinanumi’, to act with love and kindness in particular aiding the weak and widows as by the sharing of revenues from catchment areas that have been leased by government for watershed protection purposes; provision of basic needs such as shelter and food; and the incorporation of Christian moral teachings such as to be thoughtful of others which is ‘veilomani’ amongst the iTaukei. With the use of the tabua, the whales tooth cultural currency, as numéraire, the monetary value per litre of water consumed in each household was calculated as ranging from F$4.54 (AUS$2.47) to F$7.19 (AUS$ 3.91) per litre amongst the three iTaukei communities. These values and cultural practices are at the core of Nadi catchment iTaukei belief systems and way of life.
On the whole, IWRM as a concept with its set of principles is extremely important for the sustainable management of water resources. However, as revealed in literature review and the findings from the IWRM project in the Nadi catchment the implementation of IWRM can be more meaningful at local village level if indigenous, cultural and ecological values of water are to be incorporated. Values assigned to water which are universal, such as survival, ecological, recreational, transportation, religious, economic and cultural values of water are embedded in the vanua values. The use of the tabua is a bridge that communicates the need to incorporate indigenous value system into IWRM. In global terms, this Fijian analysis demonstrates that there are elements within indigenous cultural systems and values that could play an important role in enhancing the strategic, operational and policy aspects of IWRM especially in developing countries.