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New Budget to Facilitate Forest Conservation and Safeguard Biodiversity

Forests provide niche homes for plants and animals that create the ecosystems, and are intrinsic to holding soil to maintain watershed integrity, as well as functioning as a carbon sink to mitigate climate change. Therefore, we need to safeguard our forests as we depend on it for our many of our needs and wants; additionally, for the freshly oxygenated air that we breathe, the clean fresh water we drink and all the wood products we use.

Healthy native forest is also closely tied to human health. There are unicellular amoeba animals that live in the soil. These amoebae are extremely tiny and are swept away during the soil erosion process when forest is lost. They are washed downstream and may enter our bodies in various ways and affect us in adverse manners. Freshwater ecologist, Dr. Aaron Jenkins, has discovered significant filtration capabilities between waterway riparian buffers that are 50 metres and 100 metres wide. Fiji’s rivers and streams are often lucky to have even 10 metre wide buffer!

For various reasons, Fiji’s forest loss is at an average of 4,000 hectares annually over the last two decades. This must clearly change and although the National Program to plant 30 Million Trees in 15 Years is ahead of schedule, with more than seven million trees planted in two and half years since 2019, there are many complex issues that need to be addressed to turn the tide for the restoration of native forest areas to recover the maximum values of biodiversity, air, water and carbon storage; while also managing forest plantations to cater for our timber needs.

The Forest Resource Assessment and Conservation (FRAC) Division of the Ministry of Forestry has been tasked with assessing and reporting on the status of Fiji’s forests, as well as developing forest conservation instruments via its mandate to manage the gazetted Forest and Nature Reserves.

Investments in Technology

New technology to undertake surveys includes the use of unmanned aerial vehicles for assessing forest status, and the acquisition of various drones and sensors is underway to make the exercise more efficient in collecting more accurate high resolution data.

In the fiscal year 2021 -2022, the Permanent Sample Plots (PSPs) budget will be utilised to complement the ongoing National Forest Inventory using drones for accuracy assessment of the plots measured, as well as to provide more detailed information on forest composition and structure.

A Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) sensor will be purchased for carbon measurements surveys and forest inventory analysis. The sensor will cost the Ministry approximately $40,000, with delivery expected in 6 – 8 months. Forestry PSPs and the reserves surrounding the Colo-i-Suva Forestry Station will host the first trials for this technology that must also be calibrated for Fiji’s tropical conditions.

Drones will also be used in other operations such as the harvesting, control, and surveillance of forestry resources throughout Fiji. Drones are also able to provide Forestry personnel with a birds’ eye view on ground activities from a long distance away, and hence will also be used to monitoring for encroachment into gazetted the forest and nature reserves.

Other technological advancements include the use of ArcGIS online for which we currently have budgeted $40,000 annually. The ArcGIS software suite enables us to collect, analyse and visualize real time forest resources data for decision making. Using this software, we also conduct annual forest cover change analysis and its accuracy assessment for Emission Reduction Program reporting and Carbon trading.

The Ministry of Forestry also uses ArcGIS to access near real time satellite imagery to facilitate decision making on harvesting license applications, monitoring harvested areas, and monitoring tree planted areas. ArcGIS online is coupled with machine learning and artificial intelligence to further analyse imagery and data collected with our drones; and with GIS data from our stakeholders, we have greater capacity to analyse data to facilitate sustainable forest management decision-making.  

Forest Parks and Recreation

Development of benefits such as recreation and tourism in forest parks is another vital component of the FRAC Division via the management of its Forest and Nature Reserves. Enhancement of the Colo-i-Suva Forest Park is the focus of the current budget, to ensure safety of all local and international visitors that come to enjoy the numerous waterfalls and pools and forest walks. The CIS Forest Park staff have also been working hard this last year in getting the Park’s Entertainment/Events Facility wholly functional and it will soon be ready for when the Park reopens when COVID-19 safety protocols are eased.

The Colo-i-Suva Forest Park has proven to be immensely popular with an approximate average of 2,250 local adults and 300 children visiting the Park monthly. The Park was also a nature highlight in the Suva vicinity before Fiji had border restrictions in place because of COVID-19 safety protocols. There was an average of 1,000 international visitors per month.

The FRAC Division has plans for the Colo-i-Suva Forest Park and Reserve resource owners to be able to increase their benefits from the Reserve via employment and programs to further their participation in the Forest Park activities. Our Forest Park maintenance and upgrade budget is $43,500 this year.


Forest-based Bio-economy


The Ministry also plans to advance partnerships with other agencies to build biodiversity safeguards and forest benefits in its other Forest and Nature Reserves. This will require some time and capacity enhancement, and thus the FRAC Division is also a beneficiary of human resources restructure within the Ministry and will be soon be signing on a Forestry Officer for Governance Development and a Senior Resources Assessment and Monitoring Officer to assist with addressing the advancement of Fiji’s forest-based bio-economy.

A part of Fiji’s forest based bio-economy is developing forest finance mechanisms to appropriately value forest ecosystem services and support the creation of Fiji’s High Conservation Value Forests within our Permanent Forest Area. These designated forest areas will be crucial to safeguarding forestry resources for the future as well as addressing climate change and its associated catastrophes.

Reporting on forestry based carbon to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in collaboration with the Ministry of Economy will be an important task for the Senior Resources Assessment and Monitoring Officer, besides overseeing all the technological advancements and other vital forestry reports.

Independent certification of forest management is becoming the key to accessing higher paying markets that value sustainably managed forests. Building the supportive native forest management governance for this is another priority activity of the FRAC Division, as is lending certification expertise to the Fiji Hardwood Corporation Limited in their efforts to secure the best markets for Fiji’s high value mahogany products. This activity has a budget of $10,000.


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