The Pacific Community (SPC) and the European Union (EU), through their joint initiative, Reforest Fiji, are making available more than 250,000 tree seedlings to help affected Fijian communities recover from tropical cyclone Winston.

The tree seedlings comprise different species, including Teak, Mahogany, Caribbean Pine, Eucalyptus and Acacia among others. They were propagated in nurseries in north-west Viti Levu, with the original purpose of helping vulnerable groups, mainly farmers, to supplement their incomes through the production and sale of tree seedlings and in the establishment of woodlots and commercial tree plantations.

The EU Ambassador to Fiji and the Pacific, Andrew Jacobs, said: “The aim of Reforest Fiji is to alleviate poverty in selected sectors of the sugar cane belt region by providing alternative sources of income, a need that has been exacerbated by the impacts of this powerful cyclone.”

“In addition to being valuable sources of timber and providing a boost for livelihoods, the trees will also play a vital role in rehabilitating and restoring degraded lands and forests affected by this disaster,” the Ambassador said.

This follows the initial allocation of 43,000 fruit and vegetable seedlings to Fiji’s Ministry of Agriculture by the EU and SPC earlier this month, through the Improving Key Services to Agriculture (IKSA) initiative.

“Whilst the fruits and vegetable seedlings respond to the short term food security needs of the affected population, Reforest Fiji looks at their medium to long term livelihood needs and income generating opportunities,” stresses Ambassador Jacobs.

Reforest Fiji, through SPC’s Land Resources Division, will work with the Ministry of Fisheries and Forests to identify and supply seedlings to the priority areas for reforestation.

“Technical advice and assistance will be provided to ensure that the most suitable tree species are planted in different sites in the targeted areas, and that they’re maintained in the best possible manner,” the Pacific Community Director-General, Dr Colin Tukuitonga said.

Dr Tukuitonga and Ambassador Jacobs toured Viti Levu’s north-west together just days after tropical cyclone Winston to meet with project staff and discuss options for offering practical assistance.

Focused on the sugarcane belt of Viti Levu, the Reforest Fiji project will also be establishing trees to protect environmentally sensitive areas, including ridges and stream banks.

In a video message released today for International Day of Forests (21 March) and World Water Day (22 March), Dr Tukuitonga stressed the importance of forests in safeguarding our health, environment and livelihoods as well as the collective responsibility to act now to protect this vital resource. The video can be viewed at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KLv4UV1YCJs

Media contacts:
Lauren Robinson, SPC Communications, [email protected] or +679 337 9250
Mohammed Nazeem Kasim, EU Press Officer, [email protected] or +679 331 3633