Once established, the trees will help farmers to protect soil, reduce erosion, supplement future on-farm income.
Cane farmers in the Western Division have taken responsibility to plant high value trees to help improve the livelihoods of people in the sugar cane belt areas.
This is through the Pacific Community’s (SPC) Reforest Fiji project funded by the European Union which focuses on watershed management.
And as part of the project, Reforest Fiji has been working with the Fiji Sugar Corporation (FSC) and the EU-funded Fair Trade project to support leaders and link farmers with the establishment of high value trees on cane farms in the sugar belt of Viti Levu.
Over the next three weeks, seedlings will be distributed to leaders and link farmers in other FSC districts and sectors on Viti Levu
SPC Reforest Fiji project manager, Stephen Walker said an initial expression of interest (EOI) distributed by FSC team leaders to leader farmers in November 2016 offered the opportunity for cane farmers to each obtain 20 high value trees for planning on their farms.
“This EOI identified that 1730 registered cane farmers on Viti Levu were interested in planting a total of 32,600 seedlings,” Mr Walker said.
The distribution of these seedlings was launched at Lautoka by the permanent secretary for the Ministry of Fisheries and Forests, Samuela Lagataki as part of the Pacific Community’s celebration of 2017 International Day of Forests.
Mr Walker said they distributed 4000 seedlings to 18 leader farmers in the Drasa, Lautoka and Lovu cane sectors, with those leader farmers taking responsibility to distribute 20 seedlings.
They also assisted in planting and providing maintenance advice to the link farmers in their “cluster” — representing about 200 cane farmers in total.
“Each link farmer has been provided with mahogany, sandalwood, eucalyptus and vesi seedlings.
“Once established, the trees will help sugar cane farmers to protect soil, reduce erosion, supplement future on-farm income, provide for species habitat, support the increasing use of renewable energy and reduce the use of fossil fuels and fight climate change.”
Mr Walker added the Reforest Fiji and Fair Trade projects would be following up to evaluate how the initiative had been received and to determine the success of the seedling distribution.
The initiative is likely to be rolled out in Vanua Levu if it is repeated.
EDITED BY: IVAMERE NATARO
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