Official Opening of the Training Programme for Fiji’s National Forest Inventory | PS Forestry Pene Baleinabuli
The Taukei Colo-i-Suva Koro
Landowner representatives from Fiji’s REDD+ pilot site at Draubuta and Drawa
The Fiji REDD+ Team Leader Mr. Ilaisa Tulele
Senior officials of the Ministry of Forestry
NFI team members and volunteers
I wish to start by firstly acknowledging the sacrifice that each of the individual (field assistants) will make over the next 6-months or so, leaving your homes and families, to be part of the NFI: field data collection that is critical for the future of Fiji’s forest sector but will also be demanding and test your resolve to begin and complete this important work;
I note that the group assembled here today is a mixture of experienced forestry hands that have participated in some form of forestry work in the past, along with those of you who have been selected because of your past tertiary training and exceptional skill sets; I need to emphasis the importance of “comradeship and team work”, which is the essence and the cornerstone of successfully completing the challenging mission that lies ahead. The field data collection work that you are about to embark on will not be easy as you will be sent to the four corners of Fiji’s landmass, entering terrain that many of us may never reach in this lifetime, but I have every confidence in the thoroughness of the selection process and the team assembled here this morning is the best suited for the mammoth task ahead.
The NFI is an important and integral component for guiding national policies, planning and making development decision in any country. The previous NFIs (1969, 1992 and 2005) have shaped Fiji’s forest sector and similarly the results of this year’s NFI will be no different. However, noting the devastating impacts of climate change and the economic downturn brought on by the present COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s NFI will be critical for Fiji as we begin to seek for solutions to reinvigorate socioeconomic growth and elevate the forest sector’s contribution to the national gross production by finding the “new normal way of doing business. So it is important to note that the results of this year’s NFI is not limited to only reporting on the current state of Fiji’s forests, but also identifying opportunities and possibilities for future growth in terms of establishing new business ventures and creating employment and more importantly empowering communities and resource owners to meet their daily needs.
This year’s NFI is an example of the “new normal” and in some form, “unprecedented”, in the sense that you will be using both the traditional tree measuring tools and equipment and also employ advancements in technology to test the robustness of the monitoring, reporting and verification system and protocols that the Ministry is currently developing. Field data collected will be transmitted online via preprogrammed hand-held tablets that feeds directly in real-time into the ministry’s central database, the National Forest Monitoring System (NFMS). This process will ensure data security and reduce the incidence of data lost. In addition, the ministry has also invested in the use of drones to assist in the verification process, which will be inculcated into the ministry’s overall field operations and monitoring systems.
You are also a privileged group, as you will have the opportunity to learn and build your knowledge and witness first hand of the diverse nature and beauty of Fiji’s forests and ecosystems, and the changes in forest cover through developments that have occurred in the last decade. It is therefore important that the field data you collect is accurate, consistent and reliable so that the report that is developed at the end is a true representation of the existing forest cover.
The training that you will participate in, beginning this morning, is to prepare you for the challenging work that you will embark on, so I urge you all to make the most of this training in learning as much as you can, asking questions for things that are unclear, sharing experiences that will contribute to the growth of the entire team, and all in all, help one another along to ensure the successful completion of this important work.
To the Team Leaders, you have a critical role to play and that role begins today at this training. You have been hand-picked as an elite group to not only oversee the manner in which the field work is being conducted but also managing the daily welfare and safety of your team members. I must remind you all of the Government General Orders, which will remain unconditional and must be observed at all times.
I must also make mention of Fiji’s commitment to global fight against the impacts of climate change that our Honorable Prime Minister had championed as the President of COP 23 and the announcement of the commitment to plant 30-million trees in the next 10-15years. This commitment is an infatuation that lies at the heart of the ministry’s annual operations and to-date, I am proud to report that the ministry, acknowledging the support and contributions of the communities, the corporate bodies, civil society organizations and all responsible individuals, has planted over 3-million trees in the past 24 months.
So whilst this year’s NFI is tasked with reporting on the existing forest cover, I am extremely happy to report that through the tree-planting program, we have begun to replenish the forests and rehabilitate the deforested and barren land and degraded forests.
In closing, I must acknowledge the support of the World Bank that has, over the last decade, assisted the Ministry of Forestry through the REDD+ Unit in improving the protocols, processes and systems, and the manner in which Fiji’s forests will be systematically reported, monitored and verified in the future and bring Fiji on par with the rest of the developing world.
I wish you well.