Tamanitoakula Empowered By Nature
Bêing the eldest in the family, Viliame Tamanitoakula had big shoes to fill after his father passed away three years ago.The Nadogo villager in the district of Saqani in Cakaudrove had his mother and three younger brothers and a sister looking up to him for advice and support and carrying on his father’s legacy in tending to their ‘yaqona’ plantation.
“After my father died, my mother decided that we move away from the village to our piece of land known as Navoa which is located on the outskirts of the village,” Mr Tamanitoakula said. “My brothers and I are certified chainsaw operators so we cleared the piece of land ourselves and built a thatched ‘bure’ to live in.”
A former logging planner, Mr Tamanitoakula said it was hard starting from scratch and with their ‘yaqona’ to be harvested in the next four to five years, he had to find other alternative source of income.
“I heard and read about the 30 Million Trees In 15 Years (30MT15Y) initiative along with the Ridge to Reef (R2R) Project through the media so I decided to make further enquiries.”
In August 2019, Mr Tamanitoakula travelled 76 kilometers to the Ministry of Forestry office in Labasa to enquire about Fiji’s tree planting revolution and other projects that he could venture into as a source of economic empowerment.
“Staff at the Ministry shared with me success stories of seedling vendors across Fiji that have earned a decent amount of money selling seedlings to the Ministry which they use for the 30MT15Y initiative,” Mr Tamanitoakula said.
It was after this visit, Mr Tamanitoakula took a bold step in establishing his nursery and started potting seedlings consisting of sandalwood, fruit trees and mostly native trees.
“I was encouraged to raise native tree species as this is in demand and most of the vendors here in Vanua Levu do not have them.”
Raising seedlings along with his yaqona plantation, Mr Tamanitoakula said he was also encouraged to venture into agro-forestry practices. “I really appreciate the holistic support and assistance rendered by the Ministry and the outcome of that is, in just seven months I have managed to build a house for myself and three more houses for my three younger brothers.”
Mr Tamanitoakula received his first payment of $11,000 in March last year and another payment of $9,000 in November last year which enabled him to proceed with their home construction.
These payments were for seedlings purchased by the Secretariat of Pacific Communities (SPC) through the R2R Project carried out within the Labasa and Tunuloa catchment areas.
Mr Tamanitoakula said he never dreamt he would be able to achieve so much in such a short span of time.
He added that the icing on the cake was the fact that the Minister for Forestry Honourable Osea Naiqamu visited his family on 16 December, 2020 to see first-hand the outcome of various Government initiatives and projects undertaken by his Ministry.
“Our new home here at Navoa is very difficult to reach considering we have yet to make proper footpaths and crossings but the fact that Minister Naiqamu made it here with his team speaks volumes of Government’s commitment to the people,” Mr Tamanitoakula said.
Minister Naiqamu said he was happy to finally see the outcome of Government’s initiatives and that Fijians are being economically empowered.
“As the Minister for Forestry, I preach about various initiatives that we carry out in Parliament and in various consultation forums. It is so good to see people like Mr Tamanitoakula and what he has achieved through these initiatives,” Minister Naiqamu said.
He further encouraged Mr Tamanitoakula to continue raising native tree species like the ‘dakua makadre’ and ‘dakua salusalu’ as they are becoming extinct.
Minister Naiqamu said the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) of Wild Fauna and Flora— remains one of the world's most powerful legally binding tools for biodiversity conservation through the regulation of trade in wild fauna and flora.
He said thousands of species are traded internationally and
used by people in their daily lives for food, housing, health care, ecotourism,
cosmetics or fashion, among other uses.
CITES regulates international trade in over 35,000 species of plants and animals, including their products and derivatives, ensuring their survival in the wild with benefits for the livelihoods of local people and the global environment.
As for the former logging planner, Mr Tamanitoakula’s mindset has changed and that is something very hard to do.
“I previously used to see the economic gains from cutting down trees, but my perspective has now changed to seeing the economic gains derived from standing trees,” Mr Tamanitoakula said.
“I used to encourage villagers to cut down trees for a living but now- just like I have been practicing - I will go out and preach about sustainable forest management.”
Mr Tamanitoakula’s advice to resource owners during these trying times is not to underestimate the power of nature as, like him, it can support people economically, physically and socially, and further support a stable environment.