Fijian Government Focuses on Nature-Based Recovery
As countries around the world recalibrate their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Fijian Government is stepping up its strategies for a nature-based recovery.
Among the financial allocations to various agencies towards environment-friendly and sustainable measures is a two million dollar budget for the Reforestation of Degraded Forests (RDF) programme which is coordinated by the Ministry of Forestry.
“This money will enable the scaling up of efforts towards Fiji’s tree-planting revolution which now has a target of 30 million trees in 15 years (30MT15Y),” says the Minister responsible for Forestry, Honourable Osea Naiqamu.
He said that Fiji’s tree-planting initiative which was launched by the President His Excellency Major-General (Retired) Jioji Konrote in January 2019 is gaining traction.
“With the support of the communities, private sector, civil society organisations, sporting bodies and development partners, Fiji was able to plant a million trees and mangroves in just 10 months last year.”
Seeing the importance of the initiative, Government allocated one million dollars for the RDF programme in the 2019-2020 budget.
“That allowed the planting of an additional one million trees and mangroves to bring the national total up to more than two million,” Minister Naiqamu said.
Specifically, the two million trees and mangroves cover an area of more than 2,000 hectares. This includes 31 hectares of mangroves.
Mr. Naiqamu said that with the onslaught of COVID-19 early this year, Government has demonstrated great wisdom in doubling the tree-planting budget to two million dollars.
“This demonstrates political will, and the strong belief in nature-based solutions. It is unparalleled commitment to appreciating the value of trees, mangroves and forests in addressing both the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change,” he said.
And this is not an effort in isolation. Fiji’s tree-planting initiative is in effect part of the global movement and plan of action for forests and people which is enshrined in the United Nations (UN) Strategic Plan for Forests 2030. It is an extension of the global movement to protect our forests and pristine natural environment and to restore ecosystems balance.
Cash for Tree-Planting
Minister Naiqamu said the new budget allocation will also enable the Ministry to continue the implementation of the ‘Cash for Tree Planting’ programme which provides the opportunity for Fijians who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19 to earn some cash by planting trees in their communities.
He said this complements the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) funded Ridge to Reef (R2R) programme which the Ministry is also implementing. The R2R programme has already paid out $300,000 to members of the communities.
“These cash for tree-planting programmes empower people economically and ignites a passion and deeper appreciation for nature,” he said.
Additionally, the Ministry has helped establish more than 150 community nurseries. It intends to double the number of nurseries which are managed mainly by women and youth groups.
The Ministry complements the knowledge of these communities by providing training opportunities on nursery management. It helps establish nurseries and provides ongoing advisory services.
“The aim is to keep the interest in trees and forests alive in the hearts and minds of our people,” Mr. Naiqamu said.
He said Fiji’s tree planting revolution includes developing greener towns, cities and communities.
Government is supporting the blue town model, for instance, which is being trialed in Savusavu.
The Ministry of Forestry will review its tree-planting programme to determine how it could add value to the blue town model, which is led largely by the private sector.
“Trees not only add to the aesthetics of urban centers, but they provide much needed fresh air,” he said.
“The Ministry is collaborating with the ministries of Local Government, Housing and Community Development, Agriculture and Environment, among others, to support our green recovery and food security.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic doesn’t take away the fact that climate change still poses an existential threat to our people. This simply means that we have to build back smarter by building back greener.”
“The ultimate intention is to provide an assured future for our children and future generations,” Mr. Naiqamu said.
This is part of greening Fiji. We hope to raise the morale and heighten the pride of our people about their surroundings and country.
“COVID-19 and climate change have given us the opportunity to press the reset button. To bring a greater focus on green-blue and nature-based recovery.”
This is part of the obligation we have as a Government. We are looking at long-term sustainability,” he said.