A two-day workshop to develop a National Forest Fire Management Strategy for Fiji got underway in Sigatoka today. The workshop, which is taking place at The Fijian Resort from 23-24 November, 2017 comprises of representatives from the Fiji Government, Non-Government Organisations, community groups and other key industry stakeholders.

The workshop is led by a technical team from the Institute of Foresters of Australia, Foresters without Borders (FwB) group and forms part of activities under the FJD 22 million REFOREST Fiji project, funded by the European Union (EU) and implemented by the Pacific Community (SPC).

The major objectives of the workshop are to raise awareness, increase knowledge of, and share experiences about, forest fires and rural fires in general. It will also provide a consultative and collaborative forum for a broad-based coalition of agencies and communities to discuss and agree on the way forward in the development of a draft Forest Fire Management Strategy for Fiji. A field visit to Nabou, covering both the Fiji Pine Limited and the Eltech Limited plantations will also be part of the two-day programme.

“Uncontrolled fires contribute to erosion and a decline in soil fertility and hence negatively impact on income of many sugarcane belt and hill communities. In this respect, the activities of the EU funded Reforest Fiji project such as the development of a draft Forest Fire Management Strategy, will be an important element of improving the livelihood of sugarcane dependent populations by reducing their exposure to natural and manmade risks and disasters,” said Christoph Wagner, Head of Cooperation at the European Union Delegation for the Pacific.

SPC Chief Adviser, Patricia Sachs Cornish said, “The Discussion Paper and workshop are initial steps to guide Fiji’s approach to addressing forest fires and their harmful consequences, including to the wider environment. This is a growing concern, which in light of climate change and proposed commitments, requires collaboration amongst all sectors, including government, rural communities, youth and the next generation, as well as stakeholders in the sugar, agricultural and forestry sectors.”

“This consultation and the development of a draft Forest Fire Management Strategy for Fiji will provide a 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  Minister for Agriculture, Rural and Maritime Development and National Disaster Management, Hon. Inia Seruiratu.

In September 2017, SPC invited two experts from the Institute of Foresters of Australia, Foresters without Borders group to meet with key stakeholders in the forestry and sugar sectors, government ministries and environmental NGOs to develop a Discussion Paper that is being tabled at the workshop as a guiding document.

This Discussion Paper provides an outline of information gathered from stakeholder meetings held in Fiji from 25-29 September 2017. The paper summarises contexts, issues and opportunities garnered through stakeholder consultations and other research.

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]