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Natewa Villagers Actively Engage in Reforestation

A recent report from the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization suggests that the world must turn to forests to adapt to climate change.

The initiative "Forest-based adaptation: transformational adaptation through forests and trees," which was introduced last Saturday (November 12, 2022) on the sidelines of the UNFCCC COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, emphasises how important it is for forests to protect human life and minimise the risks and adverse effects that come with climate change.

“Forests and trees can and should feature way more prominently in national adaptation policies and strategies to reduce climate-related risks and impacts, and help humanity adapt and thrive,” said Tiina Vähänen, Deputy Director of FAO’s Forestry Division.

According to this new report, as temperatures increase and the weather becomes more unpredictable, forests and trees will become an ever more crucial part of humanity's life support system.

 Water shortages are already severe in many areas of the world and could get worse to the point where they lead to war, hunger, and large-scale migration in the future.

However, the vital function that forests and trees play in preserving water resources and regulating regional climates is still not commonly acknowledged. They help protect surrounding communities from the effects of increasingly harsh weather by providing food, fuel, wood, and fodder for millions of people. 

Fiji is not excluded from the global impact of climate change. Prime Minister and Minister for Forestry Hon. Voreqe Bainimarama stated in his speech on November 7, 2022, while commissioning the Moturiki Water Project, that as the climate crisis continues to wreak havoc across the Pacific and our beloved nation, the vulnerable are bearing the immediate brunt.  

"From longer and more severe dry spells, where water becomes a scarce commodity, to brutal, intensifying cyclones that destroy everything in their path – it is no secret that the environment around us is changing rapidly," Mr Bainimarama said. 

This should serve as a reminder to every one of the value of conserving our forests, as water scarcity is now at the centre of global crises and conflict, accelerated by climate change.

Wakatu Natewa Nursery Project Training 

Back in Natewa Village, Cakaudrove, Lanieta Vatege, said that a few years ago, the creek that she and other women used to bathe at and collect water for cooking and washing from was gradually drying up and it appeared muddy. 

Additionally, they observed a drop in their catch when they go fishing near the shoreline of their village. Usually, their groups engaged in talanoa (conversation) on the changing weather patterns, the challenge in getting access to good drinking water, and the availability of food. 

Today, she and her fellow villagers, have now come to understand the importance of forests and how to sustainably manage their land and forests following a recent awareness and training by teams from cChange and Ministry of Forestry. 

When it comes to pursuing community-led initiatives for improved natural resource management through reforestation and afforestation, the chiefly village of Natewa is paving the way for the other villages within the district. The women, men, youths and children of this village are actively involved in activities that will help them sustainably manage their land and forests.  

Wakatu Fiji is a campaign to better support community efforts to sustainably manage their land and forests. The campaign was developed with support from FAO and cChange, a local communications NGO. The campaign (Wakatu which means tap root of a tree) aims to promote actions at all levels, and in all sectors, to sustainably use the land and forests, and ensure communities can continue to benefit from healthy natural resources. 

cChange communications officer, Alumeci Nakeke, explained to the villagers the value of the land, or vanua, to them, in particular the fact that they were responsible for it and that it belonged to them.  

The land is about growing the Fiji that we deserve because the land is life in Fiji. You can plant crops, build a house and support a family. The land and the forests upon it give us clean water to drink, medicine when we are sick, food to forage and materials to build our house. The land supports our communities, our traditions and our culture. 

“However, as our population has increased and our needs have also increased, our resources are being depleted. The symptoms are declining food crops, flooding to homes, lack of clean drinking water, declining fish stocks and less access to building materials, traditional medicines and foraged food,” Ms Nakeke said. 

The Sovatabua Women's Club, which has 20 members and is led by Ms Vatege, has developed an appreciation for their natural resources and now oversee the daily upkeep of their newly-constructed Wakatu Natewa Nursery Project.  

In order to replant land that had been either burned for agricultural purposes, removed of trees for housing building, or logged for pine, the participants were taught on how to construct simple, low-cost nurseries utilising resources (bamboo, coconut fronds) that were easily accessible in their village. 

Ms Vatege commended the Ministry of Forestry for educating their village elders, women, men, and youths on how to construct nurseries. 

“The training by these groups has opened our eyes to see how important protecting our trees and forests are and that there is no need to cut down trees unnecessarily.  

"We learned that if we continue to use and abuse the resources around us, we will lose access to clean drinking water, there won't be prawns in our rivers, and there will be less fish in the sea," she said. 

Taniela Taukei, the village headman of Natewa, also shared similar sentiments, saying that sustainable forest management and nursery training had broadened their understanding of the value of their forests for future generations.  

“We have potted vesi, dilo, tavola, yasi, teak, damanu and some fruit trees in our nursery and look forward to planting it, also contributing to the Government’s national tree-planting programme,” Mr Taukei said. 

Forester Extension, Josefa Matanagasau, who had conducted the training, elaborated on the importance of our forests, why we need a nursery, how to build it, seed collection, sowing and propagation and how to take care of it. 

He explained that once they planted their own seedlings, they would be able to take control of reforesting areas that had been cleared for logging and burning, allowing them to restore water catchment areas and improve their community's access to clean drinking water while also reducing soil erosion along rivers and streams.  

Ministry of Forestry Permanent Secretary, Pene Baleinabuli, stated that our extension team was out in the field creating awareness on the Ministry’s Reforestation on Degraded Forest (RDF) Project.

Mr Baleinabuli said consultations with the community and efforts to increase public awareness of the need to reforest damaged forest areas are also making a huge difference. 

“As part of the Fijian Government’s effort to sustain and improve community livelihoods, stimulate local economic activity and realise the forestry sector economic recovery and economic growth, the RDF Project is partnering with community land-owning units throughout the country to procure more land to establish more tree plantations in Fiji, through the provisions of community incentives.  

“Engaging the services of land owning-units in this programme, will enhance the Fijian Government’s initiative to plant 30 million trees in 15 years (30MT15Y). The involvement of landowners in the community incentive programme will increase the geographical area under forest and tree cover in the community lands in the villages and at the same time improve their socio-economic status by creating employment and income generation,” Mr Baleinabuli said. 

He commended the people of Natewa for their active participation in reforestation activities, which will benefit both the current and future generations.



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