Commissioner Northern Jovesa Vocea (left) having a conversation with Robin Yarrow, representing Nature Fiji, a Non-Government Organisation (NGO) and National Trust of Fiji during the draft national fire strategy consultation at Labasa Civic Centre on April 30. Photo credit: Shratika Naidu

 

The uncontrolled burning in many ar­eas is a major concern that threatens the survival of our forests and future planting of timber, bioenergy or reforesta­tion of degraded areas, stakeholders heard at a workshop yesterday.

The consultation is one of three being or­ganised by the Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Forests, with the support of the Secretariat of Pacific Community (SPC) to provide rural communities the opportunity to review the draft strategy and contribute the finalisation of a final draft for Govern­ment’s consideration and endorsement in the next few weeks.

Commissioner Northern Jovesa Vocea, who was chief guest at the Labasa stake­holders draft national fire strategy consul­tation at the Labasa Civic Centre believes fire management must be effectively ad­dressed if all investments on reforestation were to succeed.

“In 2017 alone, Fiji Pine Limited lost about 2500 hectares because of fire. This was a very significant loss to the company and to the country given that the area burnt was almost ten per cent of the production area for the company,” he said.

“The loss of forests due to fires is not only resulting in economic loss, but also the loss of biodiversity, both above and below ground and is accelerating soil loss, which is causing siltation and drying up of some of our streams.”

The total forest area for Vanua Levu is esti­mated at around 382,055 hectares or around 35 per cent of the total national forest area.

Mr Vocea feels that with such a forest cover it urgently required a review of our natural forests – like focussing more on the provision of ecosystem services and much less on the supply of timber.

“In this regard, we will need to ensure that our plantation forests are established and managed as such that they can meet all our future timber needs,” Mr Vocea said.

Native forests make up around 82 per cent of this total cover, followed by Fiji Pine and mahogany plantations and mangrove at eight per cent, seven per cent and three per cent respectively.

Robin Yarrow, representing Nature Fiji, a non-government organisation (NGO) and National Trust of Fiji said it was vital for stakeholders to contribute their thoughts and ideas.

Ministry of Agriculture senior research officer, land use section research division Solomoni Nagaunavou said one of the ob­jectives of the consultation was to conserve and enhance Fiji’s national resources, val­ues and ecosystem by utilising best practice methodology.

Ministry of Agriculture principal re­search officer Amena Banuve said the min­istry supports the draft national strategy and hopes it would help reduce fires in the agriculture sector.

Edited by Naisa Koroi, Fiji Sun