Fiji continues to strengthen their initiative to plant 30 million trees in 15 years to increase its forest cover and enhance biodiversity and ecosystem.

Fiji has planted over eight million trees and mangroves between 2019 and 2021.

This was highlighted by the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Fisheries and Forestry, Pene Nonu Baleinabuli at the Fiji Seascape Symposium in Suva this week.

He said this was possible through the ministry’s initiative to plant 30 million trees in 15 years.

“This initiative is aimed at increasing Fiji’s forest cover, enhancing biodiversity and ecosystem and bringing a strong balance between using our forest for economic services or economic purposes for the benefit of landowners and industries within the forestry sector and conserving our natural resources,” said Permanent Secretary Baleinabuli.

He said the initiative might not be “entirely new” to Fiji as the Fijian Government had established Pine and Mahogany plantations over the past 60 years, however, the new initiative attempts to replant the native tree species.

“The composition of the tree planting targets 70% Pine and Mahogany. The reason is that these commercial species will help to meet Fiji’s future timber needs. The rest 30 million trees are dedicated to native trees. It’s very important to ensure that our native trees survive way into the future. They include fruit trees and medicinal trees as well as other ornamental trees.”

He said Covid-19 halted the tree planting initiative temporarily, but the ministry continued to strengthen their partnership.

“The 30 million trees initiative is a target to ensure consistency and that’s the keyword for us. It’s the issue of consistently planting trees every year.”

He said to be consistent the ministry had to reprioritise funding and reorganise the duties of the staff within the ministry.

“The extension staff for instance now have tree-planting targets to meet daily. If they fail to meet, they have to explain themselves to the PS. They are trained and encouraged to maintain a consistent presence within the communities and form partnerships. If we fail to maintain our consistent presence, we should blame ourselves if our efforts are not realised,” Baleinabuli said.

The Ministry of Forestry has 20 stations across the country where the staff are trying to connect daily with their respective communities.

Permanent Secretary Baleinabuli said the efforts to grow Fiji’s economy is a priority for the government.

“Our staff also have monetary targets to achieve through our collaboration efforts with the industries within the forestry sector.

“The ministry has an economic recovery plan which aims to help the sector generate over FJD$400 million in three years. In the first year, the sector has generated over $120 million or 97% of the target of $123.9 million.”

Baleinabuli emphasised that the tree planting initiative is now a major platform for the REDD+ programme.

REDD+ programme aims to incentivise developing countries to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, conserve forest carbon stocks, sustainably manage forests and enhance forest carbon stocks.

Under this programme, Fiji became the first Small Island Developing State in the world to enter carbon trade with the World Bank by signing an Emission Reductions Payment Agreement (ERPA) with the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF). The five-year agreement, signed in January 2021, will reward efforts to reduce carbon emissions from deforestation and forest degradation under Fiji’s ambitious emission reductions programme.

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