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Forest Certification Sets the Management Standard for Fiji

Fiji Hardwood Corporation Limited - Forest Certification Preparatory Workshop. Closing Statement by the Permanent Secretary for Forestry Pene Baleinabuli on 4th March 2022

The General Manager and staff of the Fiji Hardwood Corporation Limited(FHCL),
representatives of the Fiji Mahogany Trust and
representatives of the World Wide Fund for Nature.

Good afternoon and bula vinaka to you all.

As many of you would know, Government had been wanting the forest certification to be extended to Fiji’s mahogany plantations for some time, and so it is extremely pleasing that we are able to make some progress with this endeavour.

The Ministry of Forestry is very pleased to have facilitated this workshop to prepare FHCL for Forest Certification, with WWF as one of the UNDP Ridge to Reef Project outputs.

Our immense gratitude goes to WWF for organising and funding this workshop for the internal assessment of FHCL to identify its management gaps.

We also thank the FHCL staff for being open and forthcoming with all your forest management details so that we may collaborate on the best development of Fiji’s mahogany resources, to reach the highest levels of forest benefits for the resource owners, the companies in the industry, our economy, and importantly our environment. 

I also acknowledge the support of the Fiji Pine Group of Companies and especially its Chief Executive Officer for sharing their experiences with forest certification.

The Need for Forest Certification

This preparation of FHCL to target entry into the Forest Stewardship Council Certification Scheme is vital for the premium market positioning of Fiji’s mahogany products.

What used to be niche markets to recognise social equity and environmental safeguards is now the norm for all the high value international wood products markets.

The Ministry of Forestry has been working in the Forest Certification space for more than 15 years, and we have experienced the Certification benefits enjoyed by the Fiji Pine Group of Companies that has been FSC Certified for a number of years.

Not only access to the premium markets, but also the landowners represented by the Fiji Pine Trust and their environmental care.

The Fiji Forest Certification Standard

The national forest management standard used for this FHCL internal assessment has been adapted from the Forest Stewardship Council international standard.

It checks on compliance with all local laws and international conventions that Fiji is signatory to.

Landowner Benefits T

This includes the appropriate lease payments to landowners.

It checks that lease agreements with the landowners are fair, and that the properly qualified landowners also have the opportunity participate in harvesting and planting operations via their Forest-Based Companies.

Forest Certification ensures that all the environmental safeguards to protect native biodiversity, soil and water will be key aspects of the Environmental Impact Assessment, and that these are further addressed in the FHCL Environment Management Plan.

Any chemicals used, for instance, will need to be environmentally friendly and any potential spillage of fuel and oil in forest machinery will be contained.

The High Conservation Value Forests are not only areas of key biodiversity, but also areas that are important to the landowner communities. Forest Certification makes sure that these areas are identified, mapped and their protection is actively managed with the communities.

Certification ensures that the forest management has the financial means to implement the required environmental protection protocols that the forest harvesting operations are efficient and that diversification options are considered to enhance local community economies via commercialising potential non-timber forest products.

Certification also makes sure that all the forest management practices are comprehensively documented and that even the design of plantation forest mirrors nature as much as possible so that it is more resilient to pests and diseases, as well as natural disasters such as cyclones.

The internal and external monitoring of the forest management practices are also extremely important in the Certification process, to ensure that the companies operating in the industry meet the environmental standards, thus facilitating continued environmental protection. 

Forest Management Diversification for Fiji

Forest Certification will not only focus on the mahogany resources managed by the FHCL, but also the leased areas that are yet to be developed. 

The 40 per cent of FHCL leased areas provides the opportunity to diversity management regimes to enter other sustainable forest financing mechanisms.

FHCL will thus be able to diversify its income streams which will add more stability points. This diversification creates resilience models for catastrophic events, whether they are in the economic sector or they arrive in the form of climate change and cyclones.

This will also create examples of various forest management models for Fiji, the best of which will be used to develop the improved management of Fiji’s native forests, thus empowering forest owning communities to enable them to also enjoy multiple layers of forest benefits.

Forest benefits are not only the financial gains, but also the intrinsic ecosystem services that are essential for the provision of clean water, fresh air, carbon sequestration and storage.

I thank you all again for your active participation in this initial process and we can all look forward to the eventual certification of Fiji’s mahogany plantations for the greater benefit of our people, economy and environment. 

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