A two-day workshop to develop a framework for a National Forest and Rural Fire Management Strategy for Fiji was held in Sigatoka, Fiji from 23-24 November, 2017. The workshop was opened by Fiji’s Climate Champion and Minister for Agriculture, Rural and Maritime Development, National Disaster Management and Meteorological Services, Hon. Inia Seruiratu. The workshop provided a collaborative space to raise awareness, increase knowledge and share experiences about forests and fires with a broad-based coalition of representatives and stakeholders from the Fiji Government, Ministry of Agriculture, forestry, representatives of the tourism industry, various agencies, stakeholders and community representatives.
The workshop was guided by a Discussion Paper, prepared by a technical team from the Institute of Foresters of Australia, Foresters without Borders (FwB) group who also led the consultation. The workshop was organised by the FJD 22 million REFOREST Fiji project, funded by the European Union (EU) and implemented by the Pacific Community (SPC).
A field visit to the Fiji Pine Limited and the Eltech Limited tree plantations at Nabou also formed part of the two-day workshop programme and provided participants with the opportunity to discuss and view first-hand the effects of burning.
Workshop plenary and break-out sessions discussed current and future issues in forest and rural fire management; identified and prioritised solutions, discussed a framework and agreed on the way forward for the development of the National Forest and Rural Fire Management Strategy. The workshop concluded with a panel discussion on the way forward, which provided an opportunity for leading agencies to state their commitments and specific contributions to support the development and implementation of a Forest and Rural Fire Management Strategy for Fiji.
During the workshop, participants:
- Commended Fiji’s role as President of the COP23 climate conference in Bonn in November 2017, noting in particular, Fiji’s strong and commendable statements calling for a reduction in carbon emissions, in Fiji and globally.
- Commended the Fiji Minister of Agriculture’s commitment to include the forestry sector in Fiji’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) in 2018.
- Noted that indiscriminate and unpermitted fires in Fiji are impacting on both native forests and on the establishment of plantations, and are contributing to Fiji’s greenhouse gas emissions.
- Noted with concern, that the loss of forests due to fires is resulting in the loss of biodiversity, both above and below ground, accelerating soil loss causing siltation and drying up of some streams, polluting waterways, increased sedimentation downstream in lower lying areas, degrading the landscape and affecting soil fertility.
- Highlighted that frequent burning has adverse socio-economic and health issues and will have implications on Fiji’s tourism, forestry and agricultural sectors and a severe impact on Fiji’s sugarcane industry and cane farming communities.
- Agreed that in addition to fire damage, increased flooding of low-lying areas impacts on the marine environment through silt deposit and also destroys reef systems.
- Agreed that better coordination and collaboration amongst all stakeholders is needed and that those in leadership positions must take ownership at all levels.
- Noted that environmental stewardship through education and awareness initiatives and information sharing about indiscriminate burning must take place with landowners, the younger generation, communities and at all stakeholder levels.
- Further noted Fiji’s National Development Plan and National Climate Change Policy in the context of its references to carbon neutrality, climate resilience and inclusive socioeconomic development in the case of the former; and for the latter, its climate change mitigation initiatives as part of Fiji’s contribution to global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
- Committed to moving forward, led by the Fiji Government and as a broad-based coalition of committed organisations, agencies and communities, toward the development of a Forest and Rural Fire Management Strategy for Fiji, noting that the success of the Strategy would depend on a clear understanding of the strategy itself, effective resourcing, planning and implementation, monitoring, evaluation and reporting.
- Agreed to the establishment of a taskforce led by Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Forests, and supported by the Pacific Community, and in collaboration with representatives from Office of the Prime Minister (MOSI/Waterways), Ministry of Itaukei, Fiji Sugar Corporation, Sugar Cane Growers Council, Fiji Pine Limited, Police, Ministry of Rural/ Maritime, Meteorological Office, National Fire Authority and the community based organisations with a view of further community consultations and presenting a draft to the Ministers’ of Forests and Agriculture by March 2018, who shall then take it forward through the government machinery.