Addressing the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation is a fundamental requirement for the success of REDD+ (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation; conservation, sustainable management of forests, enhancement of carbon). In Fiji, agriculture is identified as the main driver of deforestation, where large tracts of forest areas are cleared to establish agricultural cash crops (commonly kava and taro).
On 7 June 2013, a REDD+ seminar on the above issue was organised for Nadroga/Navosa Province, where the Fiji REDD+ pilot site is located. The seminar was organised in response to field observations by the REDD+ land-use mapping team that indicated a rapid progression of agricultural clearance into the REDD+ pilot site. This concern is compounded by the fact the Emalu pilot site was identified by USP and local scientists as one of the ‘hottest’ biodiversity spots in the country.
The seminar was held at the Agriculture Research station, Sigatoka, with more than 40 stakeholders participating. Participants included agriculture and research officers, local district representatives, farmers, resource owners, non-governmental organisations, and representatives from the provincial office, the police force and the Taiwan Technical Mission (TTM). Resource persons came from the Land Resource Planning and Development Unit of the Fiji Agriculture Department, the Forestry Department, the University of the South Pacific, Emalu Landowners and the SPC/GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit) programme – Coping with Climate Change in the Pacific Island Region (CCCPIR).
The seminar was opened by the Roko Tui Nadroga/Navosa, Viliame Burenivalu. Mr Burenivalu said that the ultimate outcome of any project involving local communities should be the improvement of their living standards and livelihoods. The REDD+ project in Emalu should achieve that outcome.
Discussions on addressing forest clearance issues were very lively and participants came up with actions and strategies to address this. They included the promotion of agroforestry systems, sustainable intensification of farming techniques to maximise production, sustainable land management technologies, diversifying to other crops and produce, improving road conditions to allow for a greater variety of produce to be marketed, and overall proper land-use planning. It was apparent that most of the actions and strategies have been discussed over the years but lacked implementation. Local district officers and agriculture extension officers emphasised the need for regular community REDD+ awareness and educational programmes so that land-users and landowners are aware of their responsibilities. This included awareness on the biological diversity of their forests and the services their forests provide.
Participants expressed their appreciation of the seminar, saying it helped broaden their knowledge of REDD+ and climate change and the linkages to sustainable forest and land use. More such seminars were called for. The seminar was officially closed by Mr Josevata Suka, the Provincial Administrator Nadroga/Navosa.
The workshop was organised by the Land Resources Planning and Development Unit of the Department of Agriculture, the Nacocolevu Agriculture Research Station, the Fiji Forestry Department, and SPC/GIZ CCCCPIR.
SPC and GIZ are supporting Fiji with national REDD+ readiness efforts.