The land in Pacific Island nations is inexorably connected to the sea. As small parcels of terrain in the world’s largest ocean, these nations must depend on this connection to ensure their development is both holistic and resilient. One project that is strengthening this link is the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) GEF 5 STAR Ridge to Reef (R2R) project, a collaboration between SPC’s Land Resources Division (LRD) and Fiji’s Ministry of Forestry.
The project is a Global Environment Facility (GEF) initiative involving multiple United Nations regional and national agencies, along with Pacific Small Island Developing States, to support and address national priorities and development needs while delivering global environmental benefits in line with GEF focal area strategies that include biodiversity, land degradation, climate change adaptation and mitigation, international waters and sustainable forest management.
In Fiji, the R2R project’s objective is to preserve biodiversity and ecosystem services, as well as sequester carbon, improve climate resilience and sustain livelihoods through ridge-to-reef management of priority water catchments on the country’s two main islands – Viti Levu and Vanua Levu.
LRD was tasked with coordinating reforestation activities in the Ba and Waidina catchments on Viti Levu and the Labasa and Tunuloa catchments in Vanua Levu. The LRD team collaborated with lead agencies, including the Ministry of Forestry and the Ministry of Agriculture, to engage communities in the four water catchments. Men, women, youth and the vulnerable groups participated in the entire process, from early scoping to consultation, seedlings purchasing, land preparation, planting and maintenance. The project also looked at improving the legislative and the regulatory frameworks to support the sustainable management of Fiji’s forest and tree resources.
Sawmilling is one issue the project addressed. The R2R team reviewed the draft Forest Bill, the Fiji Harvesting Code of Practice and sawmill and timber regulations to develop a draft wood processing code of practice to safeguard the environment and at the same time guide the sector for safe and efficient operations.
Planting is another area in that realized R2R success, with 773.5 hectares completed, covering 95 percent of targeted land. The project also paid FJD $646,788.00 to local tree nursery operators for seedlings planted in the four catchments. Project honorariums were provided to local communities that participated in the tree planting activities. These communities and their counterparts were trained in sustainable landscape management, climate change, agroforestry and farm management.
Though R2R activities are coming to an end in 2022, the project will leave a legacy that continues to benefit communities. In Muana village in the Tunuloa catchment, for example, the community was able to invest in a unit of Fiji Trust for the education of its children. In Koromakawa village, the piped water system was upgraded, and brush cutters were purchased for improving village and surrounding lands. In Korowiri village, funds received through the project were used to buy building materials for the community hall.
Throughout these communities, support for the local economy enabled purchase of tree seedlings and equipment, in addition to providing employment. Community knowledge and skills on topics such as climate change, sustainable forest and land management, agroforestry, farm management and REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) were strengthened. Livelihoods were improved through enhancement of carbon stock from rehabilitation of degraded areas within the catchments.
These progressive achievements will ensure subsequent generations benefit from the vital areas of land that connect them to the sea. SPC's LRD will continue to follow-up with expertise and guidance to communities and households as the investments bear fruit in the future.