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SUVA, Fiji Islands (July 15, 1999 - PACNEWS)---Research to determine the extent of local communities’ dependency on freshwater systems and wetland areas in Fiji now is under way.

Studies of specific communities are being conducted by the Fiji Partnerships in Conservation and People and Plants projects. In addition, according to the World Wildlife Funds (WWF), two reviews of the status of forests and marine environments in Fiji also are in the pipeline

One of the goals of the overall project is to map all wetland grass (or kuta) growing areas.

The People and Plants project in Fiji has been working with women from two Fijian villages to record their knowledge of wetland grass, which has been used for hundreds of years to weave mats.

During the past 20 years, the wetlands, where the grass thrives, have been severely affected by weed invasion, siltation caused by deforestation and chemical run off from sugar cane farming.

Last month, WWF organized a workshop in Fiji to encourage women to develop a detailed restoration plan for their wetlands. The plan includes hand digging water channels and transplanting native trees.

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