Fiji is earmarked to have an extra 7.5 million trees spanning six thousand hectares of forestry plantations and woodlots in a major boost for livelihoods in Viti Levu, thanks to a new initiative funded by the European Union and implemented by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC).
The reforest project will also reduce the vulnerability of sugar cane crop to soil erosion and will protect Sugar cane access roads from damages and flooding thus benefitting the farming communities.
Reforest Fiji was launched today by the Minister for Fisheries and Forests, Hon. Osea Naiqamu, and the head of the European Union Delegation for the Pacific, Ambassador Andrew Jacobs, at one of the project demonstration sites in Vuniyasi, Malolo, Nadi, in Western Viti Levu.
Speaking at the launch, Ambassador Jacobs said the Euro 9 million (F$20 million) project will provide important long-term environmental and economic benefits for Fiji.
“This is another example of EU commitment towards its global agenda on environmental protection, green growth and the fight against climate change. Reforest Fiji will involve communities in areas highly susceptible to soil erosion such as Koronubu, Drasa and Malolo in developing world-class sustainable forests to reforest degraded and other under-utilised land, improve local employment and generate income,” Ambassador Jacobs said.
“The idea is to show that through forestry plantations, we can not only protect soils from erosion and restore their fertility but can also provide long-term revenue to the populations, farmers and communities living on those lands.
“It’s an important part of the European Union-initiated Accompanying Measures for the Sugar Protocol Programme which supports the Fiji Government’s National Adaptation Strategy developed in response to the imminent change in the EU sugar regime,” he said.
SPC’s Chief of Staff, Ms Patricia Sachs-Cornish, said the Reforest Fiji launch was a major milestone in joint efforts to improve the livelihoods of the sugarcane dependent population of the three sectors selected for this project, starting with Malolo.
“For SPC, this is an important event given our active involvement in the Sugar protocol programme over the past four years, working with Fiji to help alleviate poverty in the sugar cane belt by supporting on-farm income generating opportunities,” Ms Sachs-Cornish said.
“Trees planted under the Reforest Fiji programme, using international best practice, will provide the raw materials required to ensure less reliance on imports and contribute to generating an estimated 400,000 days of employment, and increased jobs for years to come.
“Through Reforest Fiji, SPC’s technical experts will provide a range of practical support for local communities, including training in establishing, maintaining and investing in forestry plantations, woodlots and orchards,” she said.
Reforest Fiji is a pilot project that will conclude in June 2018. If successfully implemented, it is likely to attract continued funding for forestry development.
Forests and trees play a vital role in climate change adaptation and mitigation, including reducing the adverse impacts of disasters such as flooding, and landslides, while enhancing the resilience of communities to be able to recover quickly afterwards.
In addition to Reforest Fiji, other projects that are currently being funded by EU and implemented by SPC in Fiji include the Improving Key Services to Agriculture project (IKSA), Micro-Projects Programme (MPP) and the Rural Access Roads and Associated Infrastructure (RARAI).