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Ovalau Interested in Pine Scheme

Villagers on the island of Ovalau have expressed interest in formally joining the pine scheme which is managed by the Fiji Pine Trust with Government assistance through the Ministry of Forestry.

The expressions of interest were made to the Minister for Forestry Honourable Osea Naiqamu when he visited Ovalau last week as part of the consultations for Fiji’s tree-planting revolution: planting 30 Million Trees in 15 Years.

Mr. Ifereimi Baba, from Nukutocia Village in the district of Lovoni told Minister Naiqamu that after Tropical Cyclone Winston in 2016 their pine trees, some of which were ready for harvest had fallen and they were left to waste. More trees also met the same fate when Tropical Cyclone Harold struck in April this year,” he said.

“I have been reading and hearing about the housing rehabilitation programme in Kadavu and from my understanding villages in Kadavu come under pine schemes, which is why they are now benefiting from what their forefathers planted several decades ago.”

“After having heard of the housing rehabilitation that is currently underway in Kadavu following Tropical Cyclone Harold, we in Ovalau were happy for our Naitas and we wished we had the same opportunities. Even our close relatives on the island of Gau seem to be doing well with their pine scheme,” he said.

Mr. Baba said considering the extent of damages TC Winston had left on the island, he only wished they were more aware of key Government initiatives as they had resources that needed to be fully utilized.

“In any case, we are grateful that Minister Naiqamu is here for the 30 Million Trees in 15 Years consultation and this is a good time for us to be informed and progress with our plans to be part of a pine scheme.”

In Fiji, community-based forest plantation was initiated by Government for maritime areas in the 1970s to make use of the ‘talasiga’ landscape and supply timber mostly for the construction of homes.

Community efforts were mobilised through the concept of ‘vanua’ based pine schemes with the objective of strengthening governance issues and the coordination of community support through the traditional ‘solesolevaki’ practices.

Minister Naiqamu said in the initial stages of the pine scheme, the harvesting of pine in the maritime areas was specifically for their own housing development. This was the priority. They also had the option of selling any surplus timber which generated reasonable income.

However, efforts to fully commercialise the pine resources have been unsuccessful in the past mainly due to exorbitant operational costs, the lack of business acumen and technical expertise, and in some instances mismanagement.

But Government continues to consider ways to assist the pine scheme owners and in its 2020-2021 Budget, it allocated $1.5 million for the maritime pine development to be facilitated through the Ministry of Forestry. This is an increase compared to an allocation of $507,000 in the previous 2019-2020 COVID-19 and TC Harold revised budget.

Minister Naiqamu said these funds will complement Government’s housing rehabilitation in the maritime islands with the additional purchase of harvesting machines and equipment.

Minister Naiqamu said to be part of a pine scheme a village needs to meet the following requirements i.e. plant 20 hectares of pine which is equivalent to planting 22,220 pine seedlings on their land, acquire mutual consent from landowners; and establish a pine scheme committee.

Minister Naiqamu said the province of Kadavu had 11 pine schemes which caters for 53 villages and Government through the Ministry of Forestry and Fiji Pine Trust stepped in to assist those that were badly affected from TC Harold.

“We are working collaboratively with Pine Scheme owners to re-purpose the fallen and damaged trees for their houses,” he said.

“Since the end of July, we have managed to produce approximately 1,392 cubic metres of housing structural timber material. This is equivalent to about 240 houses.”

Minister Naiqamu said the Ministry and the Fiji Pine Trust are also carrying out the housing rehabilitation in Matuku, Vatulele, Totoya and hope to move to other islands or districts that have natural resources available.

“My Ministry is collaborating with other agencies including the Fiji Pine Trust, Ministry of Rural and Maritime Development and the Ministry of Housing and Community Development to start re-building cyclone resilient houses and this is the commitment we are making to the people in order for them to build back better and stronger,” he said.

He added Government is focusing on the economic gain of the pine scheme owners once all the pine logs for the damaged homes are being sawn as is the case in Kadavu.

“Government through the Ministry of Forestry and in collaboration with Fiji Pine Trust has set a stumpage rate whereby pine resource owners’ financial aspirations from their resources will be met,” Minister Naiqamu said.

He said that Naqara Pine Scheme in Kadavu has started selling processed pine to local timber companies on Viti Levu when it shipped $13,000 worth of pine two weeks ago.

“We are also expecting a shipment of about $8,000 worth of processed pine posts and poles from Narocake in Gau next week,” he said.

He added that Government is working with the communities and the private sector to create opportunities that could economically empower pine scheme owners to become self-sufficient and more self-reliant. It is of course not too late for other communities including villages on Ovalau to be part of the pine scheme,” he said.


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