← Go back to Press Releases
Blog Image

Ministry Supports Mahogany Landowners Cooperatives for Value Addition

Solo parent, Apisaki Rodan, 31, does not regret enrolling herself in the woodcraft skills training at the Ministry of Forestry’s Forest Products, Trade and Training Centre (FPTTC) in Nasinu, as it has been rewarding.

Ms Rodan of Mokani, Bau, Tailevu, learned more at the centre than she had anticipated, including the fundamentals of tree harvesting, sawmilling, wood processing, machining timber, furniture making and carpentry work. She was one of the four female trainees who recently received certificates from the centre on April 26, 2023, along with 15 other male trainees from the district of Vugalei in Tailevu. 

They hail from the villages of Sote, Savu and Naimasimasi and completed a three to six-month training programme with the Ministry. 

Mahogany landowners from Sote, Savu and Naimasimasi villages in the Vugalei district whose land is located in the Nukurua Forest Station are part of the skills training and empowerment of communities and individuals that the Ministry of Forestry is facilitating. 

Ms Rodan whose paternal grandmother is from Naimasimasi Village, Vugalei, had joined the course last September out of curiosity. And she has not looked back.

Ms Rodan, who has a passion for art, has ventured into adding finishing touches to customised orders (clocks, photo frames, birthday keys, etc) using mahogany branches in addition to helping her team at the centre produce fixed orders.

"I love art and craft and during my secondary education I studied technical drawing. I reminded myself to pursue my creative talent in order to one day make money when the chance to join the training was announced. I haven't looked back since then.

“Life does not stop here as a solo mother. I am grateful to the Ministry of Forestry for providing this opportunity for women to participate in the programme.”

Like others, Ms Rodan’s story of her experience at FPTC is an example of the Ministry’s continuous emphasis on finding ways to maximise waste wood utilisation through value-adding and downstream processing. This will have a positive effect on communities, particularly mahogany landowners in this case, by generating income and contributing to the country’s economy. 

Importance of Cooperatives in Forestry MSMEs

Apart from this successful training, the Ministry’s close engagement with the Vugalei community saw the birth of a cooperative, the Gaunavou Cooperative Limited (GCL). This is a first for the Ministry.

GCL has recently signed a one-year Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for Public Private Partnership (PPP) between the landowners, the Vision Group and key Government agencies.

This means that wooden products from the cottage industries will be marketed and available for purchase from Courts Fiji Ltd – a subsidiary of Vision Investments Ltd.

Valid for one year, the MoU allows Courts to directly support the livelihoods of the village communities and will be renewed on an annual basis.

The Cooperatives Department of the Ministry of Trade, Co-operatives and SMEs provided support with the community’s business registration and marketing of products through branding and business training.

GCL chairman Josua Seduadua applauded the Ministry’s commitment to not just providing his district’s sons and daughters with woodcraft skills training but also assisting them by securing markets for their products.

"Before we start our own business, we will work with the Ministry for two years. The GCL is owned by the mahogany landowners of Vugalei, and we will use this cooperative as a means of maximising the advantages available to us as suppliers of goods and services," according to Mr Seduadua.

"We appreciate the Ministry and the Vision's efforts to enable our people to profit from the wood left over from logging on our land."

The signing of a public-private partnership MOU with Vision Investments Ltd was undertaken by Vision Investments Ltd head of business development, Mr Anil Senewiratne and Mr Seduadua.

He said that the partnership was an important milestone in the development of grassroots communities, where they now have trained carpentry graduates who will manufacture and supply quality furniture to markets.

Mr Senewiratne praised the Ministry’s gender inclusiveness in the programme, witnessing four women graduating in the recent ceremony, adding that women must be recognised for their contribution to the nation’s economy, especially those in rural communities.

GCL has an order to produce 60 beds under the Vugalei furniture range (20 double-size beds, 20 queen-size beds, and 20 king-size beds) and 20 dining tables.

Through the Ministry’s Forest Subsidy Assistance, support is provided for the establishment of small forestry-related businesses through the purchase of tools, equipment, and machinery for production and enhanced quality, while also contributing to value addition. Value-adding is one of the policy objectives of the Ministry, including gender and community development.

For this group, the Ministry presented $30,000 worth of value-adding machines to start off their business project.

Minister for Forestry, Hon. Kalaveti Ravu, has often stressed the importance of establishing cooperatives, as they provide a good platform for communities to capitalise on opportunities in the productivity sectors.

"Capitalising on emerging opportunities, deliv­ering services that are inclusive and impactful on the lives of all Fijians, and effective engagement and collaboration with partners are key to the promotion of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the forestry sector," Hon. Ravu shared at the certification presentation ceremony.

The Ministry is committed to strengthening and revitalising cooperatives as key business players in the economy to boost economic activity, create jobs, help deliver (basic) services, and generate income for communities, including women and youth in the outer islands.

"Cooperatives have always brought people and communities together to work toward a common goal," Hon. Ravu said. 

The Coalition Government, through the Ministry, will continue to promote the effective utilisa­tion of waste wood for high-value products for local and overseas niche markets.

In the upcoming fiscal year, the Ministry hopes to collaborate with the Fiji Mahogany Trust to support more mahogany landowners in starting similar business ventures.

← Go back to Press Releases