Island News

Forestry can deliver MDGs

Written By : JALE BABA . When one approaches Dawasamu in northern Tailevu, one cannot miss the high peak that heralds the border between the provinces of Tailevu and Ra.
20 Nov 2010 12:00

image Written By : JALE BABA . When one approaches Dawasamu in northern Tailevu, one cannot miss the high peak that heralds the border between the provinces of Tailevu and Ra. Due north of that peak lies a village inhabited by people known by and belonging to the Yavusa named after that peak, Tova.
The village is called Nasinu and last October it had 72 inhabitants, with 5 families still sharing others’ homes.
Their main sources of income were from fishing for licensed fishermen, making sasa brooms, mats and voivoi, and sale of seasonal fruits. Their estimated collective weekly income was $537.
Their land had 57 ha of mature pine plantation established under the auspices of the National Pine Extension Programme (NPEP) in the 80s.
The plantation is part of the Dawasamu-Nawainovo Pine Scheme (DNPS) administered by a Board with direct oversight from Fiji Pine Trust (FPT), current managers of the NPEP which is funded by the Department of Forestry.

Tangible results
At the end of September 2010, a total of 122 m3 of forest products had been produced and sold. Benefits accruing to the villagers from the activities totalled $22,000.
These figures mean that the village realized $180 per cubic meter of pine produce sold, and the project contributed an additional $438 per week to the community, almost doubling their pre-project weekly income.
Community vs. Conventional Forestry
Francois Martel (who did his Masters thesis research in Fiji) and White (1992) defined community forestry as “A village-level forestry activity, decided on collectively and implemented on communal land, where local populations participate in the planning, establishing, managing and harvesting of forest crops, and so receive a major proportion of the socio-economic and ecological benefits from the forest.”
Community forestry links sustainable forest management with community well being. It acknowledges that there must be a transfer of the hard and soft technology to convert resources to products and provide access to established markets.
Otherwise resources, on inalienable communal land especially, remain just that and may not be considered as assets.
This explains, in part at least, why shifting agriculture is still practiced and forest fires remain one of the biggest threats to sustainable livelihood.
This is where the paradigm shifts from conventional forestry and needs elaboration:
Conventional forestry may be defined as straight line process where:
r The resource is unimproved and remains so always.
r Owners’ rights to resources are severed by commercial licensing resulting in little or no enablement.

Forestry on MDGs
Although the primary aim of pine extension in terms of greenery expansion has been achieved and maintained in Dawasamu, the human dimensions as expressed in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have not been addressed. History at Dawasamu shows that little tangible improvement to livelihood is discernible after the harvesting of 75 per cent of 1st rotation crop.
Community forestry recognises that by addressing second generation issues of interactive and inclusive governance, improved livelihood, and sustainable forest management they can contribute directly to 5 of the 8 MDGs related to the human dimension of development.
The three issues must be addressed simultaneously. If any of them is not satisfied the systems will eventually grind to a halt. Furthermore, communities must be assisted to develop and maintain the discipline to direct benefits to MDGs.

Interactive & Inclusive Governance
Interactive and inclusive governance is defined here as the ‘process of development where the whole community, including women and youth, are involved from inception, planning, learning, implementation, and sharing of benefits’. At Nasinu, governance is maintained at the village level; there is no committee.
The whole village meets to plan and agree to priorities and revise plans for if necessary.
This continues to be a challenge but commitment to an internalized common vision and appreciation for results achieved so far should maintain the discipline.

Sustainable forestry
Sustainable forestry is defined here as the management of forests to:
r meet the needs of local communities now without compromising the opportunities of future generations,
r bring all human activities into harmony with nature.
The project attempts to achieve this by:
r commercial thinning, both from above and below, to extract and produce for the present while enhancing the residual crop for the future,
r under-planting food crops in thinned pine stands,
r establish a tree seedling nursery and organize planting of idle forestland and replanting of cleared areas.

Improving Livelihood
Development outcomes must add to what beneficiaries are already producing or receiving and not replace them, unless the displacement results in better utility of labour or replaces unsustainable pursuits.
Sasa production, especially where fronds are collected by felling coconut trees, has been declared unsustainable and discouraged.
As such, recruitment of labour focused on capacity surplus to production for domestic consumption and other income-generating activities.
Paid forestry production is restricted to 3 x half-days each week for those not engaged in fishing. Priority is given but not restricted to young men. As mentioned above, wages earned are for the discretion of workers but proceeds from sale of forest products are directed towards agreed community development projects which included:
r establishment of a women’s store
r repair of the village power generator
r contribution to a village brush cutter and village clean-up activities
r garden to supply fresh vegetables for primary school kids whose hot lunches are prepared at the school each day

The private-community partnership approach developed and used at Nasinu is working but there is much still to be learned.
It is under no illusion that this initiative will not face some hurdles.
However, with the satisfaction of making a positive contribution to a community and anticipated support from other Ministries and development agencies, the project hopes to demonstrate the superiority of this model compared to others practiced elsewhere.
If there is one basic message – it is that ‘private-community forestry partnerships are worthy of support, but that prospective partners should enter the relationship with open minds and a commitment to make it work.

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