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Sustainable Management of Forests – The ultimate goal of Fiji’s Forestry ER Program

Following the REDD+ (Reducing Emission from Deforestation, Forest Degradation and Forest Conservation, Sustainable Management of Forests and Carbon Stock Enhancement) readiness phase is the implementation phase of the Fiji Forest Emission Reductions (ER) program in which Fiji signed an agreement on January 28, 2021 with the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF), a global partnership of the World Bank, of US$12.5 million (approx. FJ$26 million) in results-based payments for increasing carbon sequestration and reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. Fiji is the first small island developing state to sign an Emission Reductions Payment Agreement (ERPA) with the World Bank’s FCPF. The five-year agreement will reward efforts of those who choose to participate in reducing carbon emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.  
To assist with greater public understanding of Fiji’s Forestry ER Program, the Ministry of Forestry has been publishing a series of articles detailing the different activities within the Program. Today we will look at the Sustainable Management of Fiji’s forests as the ultimate objective of Fiji’s Forestry ER Program.

Alignment to the National Imperatives
The scope of Fiji’s Forestry ER Program, as outlined in the activities of Forest Conservation, Sustainable Forest Management, Community driven and plantation Afforestation and Reforestation with Alternative Livelihoods, and Climate Smart Agriculture is part of efforts to support the long-term goal of the Fijian Government to protect native forest, focus timber production on plantation or planted forest; increase economic parity and standards of livelihood of forest dependent communities through rationalization of resource use, and application of alternative livelihoods. 
Fiji’s National Development Plan (NDP) 2017-2036 recognises the need for inclusive socio-economic development based on multi-sectoral collaboration to find solutions to climate change, environmental protection, and green growth. The design of Fiji’s Forestry ER Program activities embraces this vision and national imperative for the forestry sector, which translates to the goal of pursuing sustainable development and management of Fiji’s forests to realise the full potential of the forestry sector through reduction in deforestation and forest degradation, promoting sustainable forest management (SFM), conservation, and afforestation as well as reforestation to contribute to climate mitigation through REDD+.  The Forestry ER Program focuses on carbon trading whereby Fiji is expected to receive up to US$12.5 million (approx. FJ$26 million) in results-based payments for increasing carbon sequestration and reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation from the various activities mentioned above. 
Benefits from the proposed activities have the potential to have wide ranging impact beyond carbon.  Large scale landscape restoration across the identified ER Program areas – 20 districts in Viti Levu, Vanua Levu and Taveuni will benefit current and future generations to ensure clean air, water, reduced siltation and flash floods as well as protection of Fiji’s endemic species.  
On island systems such as Fiji, the impact would reach beyond the immediate landscape where the proposed Forestry ER Program activities area undertaken and extend to support vibrant marine life through reduced siltation and pollutants entering estuaries. The spin-off would therefore be cross cutting and not limited to the forestry sector.  
For instance, the application of agroforestry and climate smart agriculture in designated agriculture land will not only address food security but also reduce siltation which would revitalise coastal marine environments. The establishment of tree woodlots in the upper and mid-slopes would retain and allow the slow release of water and contribute towards flood mitigation. 

Reduced Impact Logging & Diameter Limit Table
The adoption of sustainable forest management principles such as reduced impact logging, diameter limit tables and management of large areas of forest using sustainable principles will not only address forest degradation and deforestation, but will also contribute to livelihoods, income generation and employment, carbon sequestration, water, soil and biodiversity conservation.  
The establishment of forest protected areas will create a network or forest corridor that will not only support biodiversity but also protect fragile head waters and ensure supply of clean drinking water to all urban centres along the coastal areas of the intended Forestry ER Program area.
Commercial harvesting in Fiji largely follows conventional practices which allows the removal of all merchantable species in a logging coupe that have a girth of 35cm and above. In 2012, the Fiji Forest Harvesting Code of Practice (FFHCOP) was revised, incorporating results from the Nakavu sustainable forest management research site. The results present diameter limits for key merchantable timber species.  Coupled with the FFHCOP, conditions for application of reduced impact logging can be achieved in Fiji.

Multiple Benefits of Sustainable Forest Management
Permanent Secretary for Forestry, Pene Baleinabuli said that through the sustainable forest management efforts of those participating in Fiji’s Forestry ER Program, there is hope of reduced unplanned logging infrastructure and conventional logging. 
“The impact of the intervention will reduce forest degradation and facilitate an enabling environment for the sustainable management of Fiji’s forests. This intervention will also support resource planning of a large forest area and allocation of resources to the best suited end use. For example, forest areas with high biodiversity are reserved as conservation areas, while forest areas under timber production are utilised under the application of reduced impact logging. Without the intervention, conventional logging and degradation of remnant forests will result in the gradual loss and decline of native timber flora and associated biodiversity,” he said. 
Mr Baleinabuli also said that while the Forestry ER Program is targeted at the three largest islands in Fiji, 20 Districts in the ER-P accounting area have been selected for specific interventions. This, however, does not limit communities from other areas from being involved.  
“The selection of the 20 Districts was undertaken over several participatory meetings with the REDD+ Steering Committee.  There was unanimous agreement to retain existing forest areas and apply the following criteria to select the 20 Districts which involved areas at high risk of forest loss and degradation; areas with high degree of communities/settlements at the forest edge;  districts with high poverty rate at provincial level, and areas with known high biodiversity”. 
Mr Baleinabuli stressed that although the Forestry ER Program budgeted activities will focus on the 20 Districts, other areas in Fiji are open to voluntary commitment where participants may take part in any REDD+ activities of their preference. All communities are expected to register, irrespective of whether they are within or outside of the 20 initially selected Districts.  
The activities within Fiji’s Forestry ER Program are geared towards reducing deforestation and forest degradation, improving emission removals, increasing ecosystem services and building climate resilient communities. 
Individuals and organisations, including landowning units, farmers, women, youth, children, private sector, civil society, religious groups, academia and anyone interested in forest conservation, environmental protection and addressing climate change are encouraged to actively participate in Fiji’s Forestry ER Program. 
For more information contact any nearest Forestry Office and/or Provincial Council Office within your vicinity or visit the Ministry of Forestry and the REDD+ Unit’s social media pages.

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