The Plan Vivo Foundation recently returned from an extensive tour of the Pacific, visiting local projects and partners, and conducting government and community meetings in New Zealand, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and Australia.  

The trip was conducted as part of our wider ‘Scaling with Care’ strategy which aims to strengthen our regional presence and better understand national policy contexts.

Throughout March 2023, Plan Vivo’s CEO (Keith Bohannon), Programme Manager (Eva Schoof), and Communications Coordinator (Diana Wrangham), visited the four Plan Vivo certified projects located within the Pacific region.  

These four pioneering projects (the Rarakau Forest Conservation Project (Aotearoa New Zealand), Drawa Forest Project (Fiji), Loru Forest Project (Vanuatu) and Babatana Rainforest Conservation Project (Solomon Islands) all work with Indigenous landowners and communities and are currently one-of-a-kind projects within their respective countries.  

News of the visit made the national press in Fiji, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. This coverage not only celebrated the success of the respective Plan Vivo certified projects within these countries, but also highlighted the potential for community-led forestry projects to replicate and expand within this region. 

 News of Plan Vivo’s visit to the Pacific made national press in Fiji, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands. 

Aotearoa New Zealand - the Rarakau Rainforest Conservation Project

The first stop was the South Island of Aotearoa New Zealand, where the team met with local partners Ekos. Ekos, alongside the Rowallan Alton Incorporation (a group of Māori landowners), developed the Rarakau Rainforest Conservation project back in 2013. Nestled on the country’s most southerly coast this project protects over 700ha of Māori-owned native rainforest. 

Mike Gibbs, one of Rarakau’s landowners, joined Plan Vivo and Ekos for walk through the forest and later that week, the teams met Rarakau landowner and kaumātua (elder) Ken McAnergney. Both spoke of the deep connection Māori culture holds with the natural world and the importance of sustainably managing this land. The development of the carbon project with Ekos has provided the Rarakau shareholders (through the sale of high-quality carbon credits) with a viable alternative to logging native timbers.

Back in Christchurch Plan Vivo held meetings with Ekos and the Te Puni Kōkiri (Ministry of Māori Development) discussing opportunities within the region and how projects such as Rarakau can uphold and support Māori culture and traditions. 

The Plan Vivo and Ekos team, with Mike Gibbs of the Rowallan Alton Incorporation, in the Rarakau forest. 

Fiji - the Drawa Rainforest Conservation Project, Vanua Levu

From Aotearoa Plan Vivo travelled to the islands of Fiji, where, together with partners Live & Learn Fiji and the Nakau Programme, the team conducted a workshop at the Ministry of Economy, located in Suva. 

In Fiji, government aims include increasing terrestrial forest cover to 30% by 2023 (it currently stands at 5%). Our aim within the workshop was to show that the Plan Vivo Standard and certified projects (such as Fiji’s Drawa Rainforest Conservation project) can play a key supporting role in achieving such aims.  

In the subsequent days the team visited the island of Vanua Levu where the Drawa project is located. Whilst there, they received the traditionally warm Fijian welcome from the villages of Batiri, Navaralagi, and Lutukina, three of the five villages involved in the Drawa project.   

Recent heavy rain and flooding had made the road up to Drawa village and to the project's protected area unpassable but this enabled more time with the local communities. The team learned more about the various local initiatives funded from the sale of Drawa's credits - including the women's savings groups and several WASH facilities.


The Nakau, Live & Learn Fiji, and Plan Vivo team following a meeting with community members from Batiri village.

Solomon Islands - the Babatana Rainforest Conservation Project, Choiseul

From Fiji the team headed to the island of Choiseul in the Solomon Islands - home to the Babatana Rainforest Conservation project.  The Solomon Islands have experienced the devastating loss of forests in recent years, attributed to unsustainable logging. Having witnessed the financial injustice and environmental destruction logging brings, local communities are looking for alternatives that will protect their native forests whilst providing a sustainable source of income. 

Babatana is an example of such an opportunity and neighbouring tribes are now looking to replicate this successful community-led REDD project. There is real excitement amongst the members of the Siporae and Padezaka tribes, who are currently moving towards Plan Vivo certification.  

Following the project visit, Plan Vivo and Nakau hosted a knowledge exchange workshop in the capital city of Honiara. This was a huge success, with representatives from the Prime Minister's office, Ministries of Finance, Environment and Forestry, several different NGOs and key tribal representatives in attendance.

Plan Vivo's Programme Manager Eva Schoof in the Babatana Protected Area. 

Vanuatu - the Loru Forest Project, Espiritu Santo

The team's final project visit was to the Loru Forest Project, located on the island of Espiritu Santo in Vanuatu. Loru was the first Nakau and Live & Learn project to become Plan Vivo certified and combines rainforest protection with agroforestry practices.  

Having arrived at Khole village, nestled between the green forests and glistening sea, the team met members of the Serekar Clan and their Chief -  Skip Ser.  

Following a traditional welcome and speech giving thanks, Chief Skip led a walk around the village, pointing out key community initiatives funded and supported by the sale of Loru credits. These initiatives included improvements to the nakamal (traditional Melanesian meeting hall), supporting local families with school fees, creating shop enterprises and funding multiple water tanks throughout the village (Khole village does not have running water or access to a nearby river and consequently these tanks have been crucial).  

The following morning the team visited the Loru protected area, planting native Whitewood (Endospermum medullosum) trees and visiting the established and prospective agroforestry plots. Chief Skip spoke fondly of his father, Chief Kaleb Ser, who had a real vision for the Loru project and its future. It was notable how proud the rangers and Chief Skip are of the project and all that it has achieved.

Chief Skip plants a native Whitewood tree (Endospermum medullosum) during Plan Vivo’s visit to the Loru Forest Protected Area.

Back in Port Vila, meetings were held with the Live and Learn Vanuatu team, before heading to Canberra for final meetings with Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.  

We would like to thank our partners; Ekos, The Nakau Programme, the Live & Learn teams in Fiji, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, and the NRDF team in Solomon Islands for hosting us. We must also extend our thanks to all those who attended and participated in the meetings and workshops.  

For more information on the Rarakau Project, please visit the Ekos website.

For more information on the Babatana, Loru and Drawa projects, please visit the Nakau Programme website.