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Tree Planting revolution Ignites Passion in Fijians

The world as we know it is changing. Scientists are promoting the need to respect nature as a potential solution to addressing both climate change and infectious diseases such as COVID-19.

Current statistics indicate that Fiji’s forest cover is 1,105,777 hectares which equates to 60% of the country’s total land area of 18,270 square kilometres or 1,827,000 hectares. Despite our relatively high forest cover, only a small percentage consists of intact indigenous forests with the rest comprising of secondary and degraded forests.

In this regard, the tree planting revolution through the 30 Million Trees in 15 Years (30MT15Y) campaign is a step in the right direction for Fiji. Planting trees will help clean the air, filter water, absorb carbon, create shade, enrich the soil and provide food and shelter for animals.

Members of the public are encouraged to log onto the Ministry’s website www.forestry.gov.fj to record their tally of trees planted with the Ministry as every Fijian’s contribution to the 30MT15Y campaign counts.

Spearheading Fiji’s 30MT15Y initiative as a means of also addressing the fight against climate change is the Minister for Forestry, Honourable Osea Naiqamu who since the announcement of the tree planting campaign by H.E the President Major-General Jioji Konrote at the State House in June 2019 has been relentlessly carrying out consultations in provinces around the country.

Minister Naiqamu thanked Fijians for their passion and continued commitment to contribute to the nation’s tree planting efforts.

Given the loss of jobs due to the onset of COVID-19, he further commended villages for setting up community nurseries to nurture and sell tree seedlings as an alternative income source during these trying times. 

“The response from the provinces I have visited and helped to plant trees over the last 12 months has been overwhelmingly positive. Mataqali landowning units have pledged land for this replanting purpose and women and youth groups have also set up nurseries,” he said.

Inspired by the Hon. Minister’s visit the youth of Vatulovona in Labasa marked the occasion by planting 800 trees. The youth group said they looked forward to further collaboration with the Ministry of Forestry in its efforts to achieve the 30MT15Y target.

Minister Naiqamu in his message to communities in the provinces encouraged them to continue with the traditional concept of ‘solesolevaki’ or communal living where they work together to integrate and discuss important issues in the areas of health, water and sanitation, land use and education.

He encouraged villagers to work with Ministry of Forestry to draw up forest management plans where they could identify areas that need to be replanted, the type of tree species to plant while also incorporating agro-forestry practices in their plantations.

Agro-forestry is a land use management system in which trees are grown around or amongst crops as a means of absorbing carbon in plant parts and soil thus reducing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Agroforestry sustains biodiversity and soil fertility while controlling soil erosion on sloping lands.  

“I have witnessed first-hand the impact of climate change in coastal villages which have forced them to relocate inland due to coastal erosion, rise in sea levels and the threat of king tides which occur during cyclones, or floods.

This is the case in Waqaitakea Settlement in Udu and in the village of Nukudamu both in the province of Macuata. In such areas, planting mangroves will be effective and cheap natural barriers against coastal floods and shoreline erosion.

The latest UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on land and climate change notes that land surface air temperature has risen nearly twice as much as the global average. Forests therefore play a critical role on the front lines of our efforts to guarantee resilience in a climate changing and COVID19 pandemic world.

Using ecosystems and nature-based solutions to adapt to climate change means we are keeping biodiversity safe. The zero sum between development and environment vanishes. This is not nature or people; this is nature for people.

 “Therefore consistent tree planting should be part of the new normal in this post COVID-19 era and in the ongoing efforts to address climate change,” Minister Naiqamu concluded.

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