SUNBIZ

2000 Hectares Of Mahogany Ready For Harvest

Pilot Project On Reforestation Launched In Tikina Vugalei
02 Feb 2020 15:04
2000 Hectares Of Mahogany Ready For Harvest
From left, Simione Tagimurisala, Josaia Qilisoivalu, Sailosi Bolanavucu, Ravuama Cagi and Inia Qoli are part of the youth group that start work tomorrow with the reforestation programme in Tailevu. Photo: Frederica Elbourne

An estimated 2000 hectares of mahogany is ready for harvest in Tailevu.

The revelation by Nukurua Forest Based Company follows the signing of a contract on silviculture with the people of the tikina Vugalei, Tailevu.

Company chairman Tulai Cabenalevu said the news fuels the landowners’ glee after the village-owned company signed a contract with Fiji Hardwood Corporation(FHCL) and the Fiji Mahogany Trust Company to facilitate a pilot project in silviculture.

“It makes work readily available for unemployed youth of the 42 mataqali of the tikina Vugalei,” Mr Cabenalevu said.

He said 134 hectares of land will be cleared, aside from the 244 hectares of land that is ready for transplanting of 80,000 mahogany seedlings.

Benefits

Under the new scheme, 15 youths from each of the three zones -Naitasiri, Vugalei and Nausori will be employed on a quarterly basis to clear land and plant mahogany, Mr Cabenalevu said.

“They’ll earn $3.70 an hour which is more than what some are earning elsewhere.

“There are other perks involved such as transport.”

Nukurua Forest Base Company has set aside a weekly budget of an estimated $3000 for the venture, he said.

“Sustenance of the company hinges on the performance of the youths. We mean serious business,” Mr Cabenalevu said.

The company did not mince its words when it spoke to youths about the important role they play in the success of the business, he said.

Tui Vugalei Ratu Emosi Qicatabua hailed FHCL for executing the initiative.

“To cook a pot of cassava, you need more than one firewood. The more firewood you add to the flame, the faster and better the pot will cook,” Ratu Emosi said.

He urged youth to make adaptable changes to their lifestyle in order to keep up with the pace of paid employment.

“Punctuality is important. If work starts at 7am, be there before 7am. If your grog consumption is affecting your progress at work, cut it down.”

Ratu Emosi told the 42 mataqali representatives present at the signing ceremony to be vigilant in their monitory and supervisory role in the business.

The trickle down effect, according to Mr Cabenalevu, will impact 3000 villagers from the 17 villages that make up the tikina Vugalei, in Tailevu.

Challenges

Meanwhile, Mr Cabenalevu said the primary challenge was the fact that the Nukurua Forest Base Company was a village-formed business.

“We will always have our traditional and cultural obligations to weigh in. We will have to prioritise and put aside what we can for the sake of keeping the business going.”

Nukurua is the biggest of 14 mahogany forest stations in the country, Mr Cabenalevu said.

He said the Government injected $14,000 into the company to kick start the silviculture business.

It takes 30 years for a mahogany plant to mature, Mr Cabenalevu said.

“We are in a cyclone-free area so the industry is protected in that way,” he said.

Fiji Mahogany Trust Company chairman Serevi Baledrokadroka said another challenge was ownership of machinery needed for the business.

“A huge chunk of money is spent on hiring equipment needed for the forestry.

“We’re looking into that in order for landowners to retain income for themselves.”

Future plans

Nukurua Forest Based Company proposes to build better homes for its church leaders, Mr Cabenalevu said.

“The church is very important to us.”

The company proposes to offer scholarships for its most promising students, Mr Cabenalevu said.

He said the company expects to see the fruits of its labour after five years.

These are among other community development projects the company expects to delve in after it reaches five years of continued operation.Simione Tagimurisala is one of the many youths who start work tomorrow with the reforestation venture.

The 21-year old has experience as a motor vehicle mechanic.

He is excited about starting work on his land which is within the vicinity of his village at Savu, Tailevu.

“We can feed our families better, afford to send our brothers and sisters to school, and even save for the big dream.

“I’m saving my money to build a bakery in the area because there are no bread shops for miles around.”

Mr Tagimurisala has plans to build his own home.

“I’ll encourage my peers to join the workforce because we can finally make an honest living with money we earn.

“It’s even better for us that we as landowners are working on our land, and getting paid for it.”

FHCL general manager Shakeel Maharaj said the landowners had waited decades for a breakthrough.

“It is the first time in the history of Fiji Hardwood Corporation that landowners are now engaged in the FHCL operation through the board and management of FHCL and current Government support through Fiji Mahogany Trust.

Feedback: frederica.elbourne@fijisun.com.fj

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