Foresters without Borders inspect a recent fire site at Fiji Pine Ltd yesterday.

A team from Foresters without Borders (FwB) (Australia) is in the country this week to meet with Fijian Government agencies and other relevant stakeholders to discuss the development of a draft National Forest Fire Management Strategy for Fiji. The visit forms part of activities under the REFOREST Fiji project, managed by the Pacific Community (SPC) and financed by the European Union (EU).

Whilst in the country, the two FwB experts will hold consultations with various groups to inform the development of a Discussion Paper to be tabled at an upcoming Forest Fire Management Workshop, being held in Fiji later in the year. The primary outcome of the workshop will be the development of a draft National Forest Fire Management Strategy, which will be presented to the Fiji Government for consideration.

There are around 80,000 hectares of timber plantations in Fiji consisting primarily of Caribbean Pine and Mahogany. The Ministry of Forests is implementing a Reforestation of Degraded Forests (RDF) programme. There is also increasing interest and activity in planting tree crops for bioenergy and environmental benefits.

“In addition to government and private initiatives, the EU is currently financing the Reforest Fiji Project, worth about FJD 22 million, implemented by SPC to establish new plantation forests on degrading land in the sugarcane belt. However, it is widely recognised that fire management must be effectively addressed if all these initiatives are to succeed. This is the reason why the EU-funded Reforest project will also fund activities to improve forest fire management in Fiji,” EU Pacific Head of Cooperation, Christoph Wagner said.

“In response to this challenge, SPC, the Ministry of Forests and other partners are working towards increasing awareness of forest fire management with the aim of developing a national strategy for managing forest fires. This strategy will also provide valuable input to the development and implementation of rural forest fire management strategies more generally,” SPC Director-General, Dr Colin Tukuitonga said.

“The holding of a consultative National Forest Fire Management Workshop is very important to the development of a draft Forest Fire Management Strategy for Fiji, as it will provide a consultative and collaborative space to discuss the way forward. It will also help raise awareness and increase knowledge of, and share experiences about, forests and fires with a broad-based coalition of agencies and communities,” said Fiji’s Permanent Secretary for Fisheries and Forests, Samuela Lagataki.

Background:
REFOREST Fiji is one of several projects implemented by SPC and financed by the EU in Fiji’s sugarcane belt. These projects are linked to the EU’s Accompanying Measures for Sugar Protocol (AMSP) programme and aim to help strengthen rural sugar-income dependent communities in response to the EU’s Sugar Price Reform and the adverse conditions in the sugar industry. The AMSP programme is designed to improve the livelihoods of sugarcane dependent populations, increase income and reduce poverty.

Media contacts:
Debbie Singh, SPC Sugar Projects Communications Specialist, Email: [email protected]

Foresters without Borders representatives John Steer (second from left) and Tim McNaught hold discussions yesterday at recent fire site at Fiji Pine Ltd.