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Nairai Villagers Embark On Tree Planting Initiative

With the adage that ‘Climate Change is Real’, five villages on the island of Nairai in the Lomaiviti Province have joined forces for a good cause and that is to redress their island home by planting more trees.

Villagers of Natauloa, Tovulailai, Lawaki, Vutuna and Waitoga have first-hand experience of the drastic impacts brought about by this natural phenomenon as they are located along the coast.

After hearing the Minister for Forestry Honourable Osea Naiqamu on the radio talking about the 30MillionTreesIn15Years tree planting initiative and how it can combat Climate Change, the five village headmen met and decided to reach out to the Ministry of Forestry.

Vutuna village headman Mr Sitiveni Rogowale said after hearing about the initiative they all agreed it was a worthwhile project to support as they would only be helping themselves but their future generations as well. 

“We decided to call the Ministry for advice and we were fortunate that on the second week of December they sent a representative who visited all the villages,” Mr Rogowale said.

“We were also fortunate the Ministry sent us a son of Nairai who managed to convince us that what we were about to embark on is a worthy cause. We may not see the fruits of trees we planted today but our future generations will bear witness to it.”

Mr Rogowale said this year the five villages agreed to plant 10,000 trees per village.

“At the end of the year we expect to have planted 50,000 trees but if we can exceed our target then it is a bonus for us.”

Ministry of Forestry’s Forest Guard Etuate Kotoiwasawasa who hails from Waitoga Village said villagers spoke at length about the 30MillionTreesIn15Years initiative they heard on the radio and wanted to know more.

“What they heard on air generated a lot of interest as that was the first time they heard about the initiative and large scale tree planting,” Mr Kotoiwasawasa said.

Mr Kotoiwasawasa spent a week in his district of Nairai from December 7th, 2020 to December 11th, 2020 advising villagers on what tree species would grow well on slopes, flat land or on coastal areas.

“For me personally, I have been on a few tours around the Lomaiviti Province with Minister Naiqamu but to receive news that villages in Nairai wanted to plant trees and that I was going to be sent here to serve them was a proud moment for me.”

“In order for me to spread the gospel of the 30MillionTreesIn15Years initiative, I have to first own it and believe in it as this will make it easier for me to relay the same message to the villagers.”

Mr Kotoiwasawasa said during his trip to Nairai he took 1000 sandalwood seedlings which were supplied by a couple from Sigatoka.

“Upon my consultation with villagers I told them the sandalwood seedlings travelled almost 70 miles by boat and this was an indication that they needed to make a move on tree planting.”

“I also advised them they could start their own village nurseries whereby the Ministry could purchase seedlings from them to plant on their land instead of bringing seedlings all the way from Viti Levu.”

Natauloa village headman Eremasi Uluiviti said all five villages in Nairai have set goals to build their own village or community nurseries which the men, women and youth in their own groups would take turns in looking after it.

“Come August or September this year we expect to be planting seedlings that we have raised in our nurseries.”

Mr Uluiviti said this would be a source of economic empowerment for them in the village apart from waiting for the usual seven years for their ‘yaqona’ plants to mature.

“We believe in the 30MillionTreesIn15Years and we think this is one of the best Government initiatives by far.”

According to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Report 2020, forest loss remains high despite growing efforts to manage them sustainably.

The report states the world’s forest area continues to shrink, although at a slightly slower pace than in previous decades.

From 2015 to 2020, the annual rate of deforestation was estimated at 10 million hectares, down from 12 million hectares over 2010 to 2015. The proportion of forest area globally declined from 31.9 per cent in 2000 to 31.2 per cent in 2020.

This represents a net loss of almost 100 million hectares, primarily due to agricultural expansion. These lost forests mean the disappearance of livelihoods in rural communities, increased carbon emissions, diminished biodiversity and the degradation of land.

While forest loss remains high, 2020 data show that the proportion of forests in protected areas and under long-term management plans, as well as certified forest area, increased or remained stable at the global level and in most regions of the world.


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