A group of 16 forestry professionals, led by former Permanent Secretary for Fisheries and Forests, Samuela Lagataki, are working to bolster the Fiji Forestry Professionals Association (FFPA).
Established alongside the Fiji Forest Policy in 2007, the FFPA, which has a membership exceeding 50, is dedicated to advancing forestry as both a science and a profession and promoting a deeper comprehension of the science underpinning forestry.
As reported by The Fiji Times, the meeting aimed to foster collaboration and development in the forestry sector. The consultation took place at the Pacific Community’s Narere campus.
Attendees included Graham Wilkinson of the Australian Forestry Professionals Association, Jalesi Mateboto from SPC representing the Pacific Network of Forestry Professionals, and Steve Hazelman from the Pacific Organic and Ethical Trade Community. Additionally, representatives from various ministries, FNU, Fiji Mahogany Trust, and Fiji Hardwood Corporation were present.
The FFPA’s primary role is to foster human resource development and establish professional standards for its members, ensuring they fulfill the requirements of diverse forestry sector agencies.
“Our objective is to broaden our knowledge of forestry science while promoting its development as a profession,” remarked Samuela Lagataki.
The association is open to all individuals engaged in forest-related activities, encompassing foresters, conservationists, environmentalists, climate change specialists, social and community workers, training providers, industry representatives, and other forest experts.
At the meeting, Mr. Mateboto presented an overview of the technical training and capacity building that the SPC Land Resources Division has provided to its Pacific Region member countries, including Fiji. Despite these efforts, countries in the region persistently request further training and capacity building, even in areas where training has previously been conducted.
This situation raises the question: What has become of all the individuals who underwent training? When queried, countries reply that these individuals remain in the country, but are no longer in service or within the system, leaving their knowledge and skills underused.
Lagataki stressed the association’s crucial role in ensuring that all available skills are acknowledged and utilised. The Fiji Forest Policy supports the establishment of the association to guarantee that all knowledge and experience within Fiji are harnessed and effectively applied to progress the country’s forest sector.
The Fiji Forest Policy
The successful implementation of the Fiji Forest Policy relies on key principles, such as the shared responsibility of all stakeholders, including public and private sectors, resource users, landowners, civil societies, and interest groups. Forestry Professional Associations, like Forestry Australia, demonstrate the potential to boost professionalism and raise professional standards in the forestry sector with proper direction and management.
Since 2007, there have been significant developments in forestry, agriculture, and land use. These changes have considerable implications for the future roles of forests and forestry. The latest government policy and strategic documents reflect expanding commitments, shaping future developments, and requiring extensive new expertise in the forestry and land use sector.
The Centre for Global Development’s Sustainable Forest Initiative has pinpointed 10 areas among the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) where well-managed forests can positively impact. These areas include:
- Poverty (SDG 1)
- Hunger (SDG 2)
- Good Health and Well-being (SDG 3)
- Clean Water and Sanitation (SDG 6)
- Affordable Clean Energy (SDG 7)
- Decent Work and Economic Growth (SDG 8)
- Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure (SDG 9)
- Climate Action (SDG 13)
- Life Below Water (SDG 14)
- Life on Land (SDG 15)
By addressing these goals, forests can play a crucial role in sustainable development and environmental conservation.
Working towards forest certification
The Fiji Hardwood Corporation Ltd (FHCL) has taken a crucial step towards certifying its mahogany. In July 2022, they launched the Forest Certification Gap Analysis and Roadmap Report. Fiji Attorney-General and Minister for Economy Hon. Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum commended FHCL’s efforts to target the Forest Stewardship Council Certification Scheme, enabling Fiji’s mahogany products to access high-value international markets and achieve premium positioning.
The absence of certification currently hinders access to overseas markets and the negotiation of prices. Certification would help distinguish Fijian mahogany from illegally harvested sources and raise its value. The report identifies gaps in FHCL management and offers strategies to achieve compliance with international Forest Management Standards, thereby enhancing economic, social, and environmental sustainability.
Certifying Fiji’s mahogany forests would elevate work standards, benefit landowners and workers, and contribute to economic growth. Fiji Pine Limited, which has already received Forest Stewardship Certification, now enjoys various benefits, including market access, technological advancements, and improved decision-making.
Sayed-Khaiyum expressed hope that FHCL would follow suit, allowing the company to prioritise activities leading to certification. The FHCL Forest Certification Gap Analysis and Roadmap Report received funding from WWF under the UNDP Ridge to Reef Project, while the Ministry of Forestry provided technical support and authorship.
Forestry is crucial to Fiji’s economic recovery
In February 2023, the newly appointed Minister of Forestry, Kalaveti Ravu, highlighted the forestry sector’s vital role in Fiji’s national economic recovery. Ravu stated, “The Ministry is focused on balancing protection and production, ensuring equitable benefits, and empowering communities through capacity building and training.”
The Ministry’s ambitious initiatives, such as the 30 Million Trees in 15 Years, have been widely embraced, with communities involved in establishing nurseries and selling seedlings for planting efforts throughout Fiji.
Forestry research aims to develop new economic development and environmental protection technologies, focusing on non-wood forest products like sandalwood, bamboo, sikeci, and dilo. This approach will alleviate pressure on native forests, provide diversification opportunities, and directly benefit communities through engagement, training, seedling sales, and mature tree products.
The Ministry also collaborates closely with the mahogany industry, home to the world’s largest mature mahogany plantation, to meet its needs and enhance its economic contribution. Forest certification, such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), is essential for the premium market positioning of Fiji’s mahogany products. The Ministry aspires to strengthen partnerships with stakeholders, including landowning units, to ensure sustainable forestry management and growth.
The FFPA will convene a second meeting with its members to adopt its constitution and elect office bearers in preparation for registration. Once registered and after close consultation with the Forestry Department, the association’s initial focus will align with the mandate outlined in the forest policy. Lagataki added, “The specifics will emerge from a stakeholder workshop that the FPFA must organise to ensure its focus addresses the sector’s current needs and aligns with its mandate under the Fiji Forest Policy.”