Foresters without Borders
Culture and Ethos
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Foresters without Borders assisting Fiji prepare a Forest and Rural Fire Management Strategy
Following extensive European Union investment to establish timber plantations as part of REFOREST Fiji project and the subsequent loss of these plantations by the indiscriminate use of fire in the Fijian landscape, the Pacific Community (SPC) sought assistance from Foresters without Borders (FWB) to develop a draft National Forest and Rural Fire Management Strategy to address the issue.
Fire has long been part of the Fiji landscape and its impacts on environmental, social and economic values to the people of Fiji were well recognised. Some of these impacts include the destruction of timber plantations and remnant vegetation, impacts on health due to smoke, long term decline is soil fertility and structure, reduced water quality and the loss of income to the Fijian government and sugarcane farmers.
Whilst these concerns were partly addressed in isolation, it was identified an overarching strategy was required to ensure collaboration across government and the broader community. Through collaboration, the strategy would also serve to facilitate a change in the culture of indiscriminate fire use in Fiji.
Following a meeting between FWB and SPC, and the development of a project plan, Expressions of Interest were called from IFA members. A volunteer team comprising Tim McNaught, David Dore and John Steer was appointed to work with Fijian stakeholders to develop a discussion paper and draft a fire management strategy.
In conjunction with SPC, the team has now assisted in achieving a number of milestones including:
- The development of a Discussion Paper following meetings with stakeholders, community, NGOs and government agencies last September to gain an understanding and to document the issues
- Presentation of the Discussion Paper at the National Forest Fire Management Workshop held at Sigatoka, Fiji last November
- Providing assistance in setting up and facilitating the workshop to gather further information and priorities for the National Forest and Rural Fire Management Strategy
- Drafting a Strategy for SPC to further consult with across government, communities and the private sector.
The key outcomes from the Workshop also included
- Endorsement by the Climate Change Champion and Minister for Agriculture, Rural and Maritime Development and National Disaster Management.
- An Outcomes Statement supported by all attendees that sets the framework to progress the development of the Forest and Rural Fire Management Strategy
- Identification and agreement of the key agencies to progress the Strategy.
- Agreement to expand the strategy to include rural fire and not just forest fire.
- Commitment from the Permanent Secretary, Department of Agriculture as lead agency.
- Extensive media coverage highlighting the issue to the people of Fiji.
Currently the lead agencies are meeting to discuss and refine the draft strategy with a view to having stakeholder consensus prior to presenting the final strategy at an FAO Regional conference in April 2018 and then seeking Cabinet approval in late April. Implementation of the strategy is planned to commence in September 2018.
Nacocolevu view of broad-scale burning, fragmented forests and sedimentation. (courtesy Robin Yarrow)
Pinus caribaea regrowth with active fire beside the Queens Road between Nadi and Sigatoka (courtesy John Steer).
Participants at the National Forest Fire Management Workshop, Sigatoka Fiji, November 2017 (courtesy Pacific Community)