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Mainstreaming Fiji’s Forest Biodiversity Economics

We have only one Planet Earth, so we need to protect it! 

The Earth’s forests are crucially important for biodiversity conservation and climate mitigation. By that same token, forest biomes are equally important for terrestrial biodiversity, however humanity's growing demands for resources has led to the removal of natural forests for agriculture and the degradation of forest landscapes through tree exploitation, fragmentation, pollution, and other human impacts. Such pressures are impacting forest biodiversity, as many sensitive species are reliant upon intact pristine forest ecosystems. 

The Ministry of Forestry participated in this year's International Day of Biological Diversity organised by the International Union of Conservation (IUCN) on 22 May. The Ministry was represented by Deborah Sue, Director Forest Resource Assessment and Conservation. With the theme ‘We’re part of the Solution', Ms Sue presented the following;

Fiji is blessed with a forest cover of 1.1 million hectares (ha) which is approximately 60% of the country’s total land area and contributes approximately FJD$544 million (source: Investment Fiji) annually in terms of ecosystem services.

To ensure the long term sustainability of Fiji’s forests, the Ministry is guided by the Constitution of the Republic of Fiji, Green Growth Framework, Fiji Forest Policy 2007, Forest Decree 1992, Fiji Forest Harvesting Code of Practice 2013, Fiji’s REDD+ Policy 2011 and is working on several initiatives under its Annual Operations Plan. Securing Fiji’s forestry resources focuses the establishment of Fiji’s Permanent Forest Estates (PFE) which includes its High Conservation Value Forests, Plantations, and Multiple-Use Forests that are boosted by the Ministry’s 30 Million Trees in 15 years (30MT15Y) Reforestation Programme that is also extended into communities and home gardens though new programmes such urban forestry and food forestry. 

To capture the economic benefits of seemingly intangible forest ecosystem services, the Ministry of Forestry must work with partners to develop and operationalise concepts such as the payments for forest ecosystem services, debt for nature swaps, trust funds and bonds. The governance framework for management of the Permanent Forest Estates needs to be established to enable the resource owners (aka landowners) to be the major beneficiaries and thus be incentivised to commit their forests into the PFE for the benefit of all Fijians, in addition to contributing to climate change mitigation worldwide. 

The forestry sector partners include the communities, civil society organisations, industries, as well as other sectors such as agriculture, development and infrastructure, local government, energy, mining, tourism, economy, environment, water and waterways.

Scientific research into native tree species is also crucial to safeguarding Fiji’s forest biodiversity, particularly for promoting them into plantation management, restoring High Conservation Value Forests, rehabilitating Multiple-Use Forests, and extending Fiji’s tree cover through food forestry and urban forestry. 

Food and urban forestry also have the potential to create new industries to engage people into healthy outdoor activities, from landscaping gardens and arboriculture to manage the urban trees to keep people and properties safe; to establishing small-medium enterprises for these sectors as well as manufacturing and retailing organically sourced healthy food and drink products. 

Forestry activities no longer need not be restricted to rural areas. All Fijians are invited to participate in tree planting and growing wherever they may be, as well as to simply enjoy the ambiance, shade, and breeze that trees naturally provide. Utilising native species to boost Fiji’s biodiversity in forestry activities ensures the promotion of species that have evolved through millennium to Fiji’s environmental conditions and thus are also species that are not likely to become environmental pests.

The indicators of sustainably managed forest resources involve the establishment and growth of the Permanent Forest Estates, having happy communities, and forest workers decently employed to create the vibrant forest trade in all the possible products and services. In summary, this is the basis of Fiji’s forest-based bioeconomy !

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