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Ministry Partners with Navuso on Agroforestry for Sustainable Landscape Management

The Ministry of Forestry is collaborating with the Navuso Agricultural Technical Institute (NATI) in Navuso, Naitasiri, to promote sustainable agroforestry practices.

This is also part of the NATI’s efforts to revive the Student Farmer Scheme to boost the number of young people who are interested in farming their land.
To get the scheme off the ground, NATI’s 2022 Business Plan has identified the need to build 10 farm houses (20 feet by 16 feet each) to house 20 student farmers.
Thanks to the timely technical and training assistance by the Ministry, NATI will soon begin constructing the first five houses and one hall.
On September 6, around 88 young men and women from around Fiji graduated with Certificates of Participation in Basic Harvesting Trees Manually and in Portable Sawmill Operation. Thirty nine of the participants were students of NATI. The two-week training, which was conducted at Navuso by a team from the Ministry of Forestry, enabled the participants to produce mahogany timber of the quality and quantity sufficient to build the first five farm houses identified in NATI’s 2022 Business Plan.  
Government continues to invest in Forestry Training every year to ensure that the training needs of the Industry, community and the people of Fiji is addressed to empower Fijians to undertake developments in which they can sustainably and meaningfully utilise their forest resources to improve their lives. 
NATI sits on a 1,200 acre property. The Methodist Church in Fiji owns 900 acres of freehold land, while the rest is crown leased land.
Its original intention, when it began in the 1800’s, was to train indigenous Fijian youths from the villages in commercial agriculture so that they could be competitive in the growing agriculture sector. Today, the institute is continuing to train future replacement farmers in Fiji.

Promoting agroforestry 
Agroforestry is a set of practices that incorporate both agriculture and forestry to enhance productivity, profitability and environmental stewardship. 

Conservator of Forests, Sanjana Lal, who officiated at the graduation event, encouraged the participants to work towards sustainable and equitable agroforestry farming practices and put the forestry training to good use.
Mrs Lal said NATI and the Ministry would continue talks for further collaboration on climate smart agroforestry practices. 
"There was a need to promote the concept of agroforestry in our communities as the traditional practices of agroforestry in our communities had slowly eroded and that unsustainable activities were slowly destroying our good agricultural lands and our forests," Mrs Lal said.
Mrs Lal further said that, "Forests are not only important economically as they also deliver really important environmental and social benefits. The two trainings have taught the participants basic harvesting skills, which has enabled them to prepare timber to construct the proposed farm houses and hall for the institute. This is part of improving their lives and livelihoods.” 
Tree-planting has become a cornerstone of many environmental campaigns in recent years. The call to plant trees is everywhere, seen as a simple and effective way to help reduce the impact of carbon emissions and restore natural ecosystems.
The key to developing Fiji's green and blue economies from ridge to reef—mountains, forests, farmland, and mangrove forest estuaries—is thus the national tree-planting project, which aims to plant 30 million trees and mangroves in 15 years. 
In just four years, the Ministry reports that more than 15 million trees and mangroves have been planted and we have the people of Fiji to thank for this achievement and the Government for their foresight in investing in this initiative.
Mrs Lal said that the students, as part of the two-week training, were also taught the importance of planting replacement trees so that they have stock ready for the future.
"If we harvest forests and replant them with seedlings and seeds that are better adapted to climate change, we will continue to have forests that will supply us with useful products and services, including their mitigation impacts against climate change," Mrs Lal added.
The Government has invested millions in training Fijians to better manage and develop forest resources in innovative ways, modernising concepts to transform the lives of all Fijians.
A report on Achieving the Global Goals through Agroforestry by the International Institute for Sustainable Development in 2018 states that agroforestry can contribute to food security, increase biodiversity, and combat climate change and, more importantly, attract policy attention and investment to fulfill its potential. 
The report presented evidence of how agroforestry could contribute to the implementation of 9 out of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including poverty reduction (SDG 1) and hunger alleviation (SDG 2), as well as climate action (SDG 13), biodiversity conservation and sustainable land management (SDG 15).
Mrs Lal concluded that teaching the students who would become future farmers the knowledge to improve food, nutrition and income security as well as improve their resilience to climate change while conserving biodiversity would go a long way in contributing to the successful achievements of the above SDGs.

NATI welcomes Forestry assistance
Head of NATI, Mr Uraia Waibuta, said that their curriculum focused on fully preparing our young men and women to become future farmer replacements and, later on, commercial farmers in Fiji. This followed national concerns about the aging farmer population.
"Our goal is to train future replacement/commercial farmers in Fiji. None of our graduates will continue with their education to enter the formal job market. All our graduates go back to the land. For those that do not have land, an incentive is offered where land lease titles are given to these young farmers," Mr Waibuta said.
Mr Waibuta stated that their three-year Certificate in Agriculture (Integrated) Level IV program is highly practical in nature, with students doing practical on the ten different enterprises provided in the institute facilities.
Since 2019, the institute has already issued land lease titles to 45 of the 75 students that have graduated. The enterprises include dairy, piggery, poultry, aquaculture, root-crops, vegetable crops, fencing, cottage industry, farm machinery and carpentry.
On plans to revive the Student Farmer Scheme, Mr Waibuta acknowledged the Ministry for its timely support in training their students and farmhands to have the required competence to cut trees and saw the logs available on their property to assist them in building back their farm houses, a common hall and a storeroom.
He said the idea behind this is to train the rural youths in a controlled environment for three years, starting off with six students in October and another four in January next year.
"The forestry training carried out here at NATI has been very helpful and we are thankful to the Ministry for stepping in and helping us achieve our objective of reviving the student farm scheme. The practical our students have gone through will enable us to construct the first farm houses and a hall in a timely manner," Mr Waibuta said.

Other collaborations  

"Our collaboration is to develop an agroforestry concept or model on the farm, to ensure they practice climate smart agriculture. It should be an ongoing collaboration," Mrs Lal said. 
The aim is for the students to return to their farms after graduation with the same concept of practising climate smart agroforestry. 
"We want to change the mindset of the students so that it is not only about agriculture but climate-smart agriculture, which includes planting trees. As future farmers, they will take this back with them," Mrs Lal added.
In an effort to forge a collaborative initiative for sustainable forestry development for Fiji, NATI has also sought assistance from the Ministry to:
·         Thin their current heavily restocked mahogany woodlots that have an understory full of regenerating saplings to ensure trees have the required resources to grow into sawlogs for future timber needs;
·         Take stock of the scattered mahogany trees and suitable indigenous tree species on the 380-acre land;
·         Assist in planting sloping lands with a mix of sandalwood in an agroforestry concept with fruit trees as hosts of sandalwood and crops in between the rows of trees;
·         Embedding a coordinated approach for NATI graduates in relation to the planting of fruit trees and tree species that they can plant on their own lease land; and
·        Recommend a mixed species concept, with different tree species, livelihood trees such as uto, ivi, fruit trees, and others planted on the 1,200 acres of land proposed for commercial agriculture, which will help fund their academic program in part. 


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