TREES and forests hold the key to our survival and that of other forms of life, says Minister for Primary Industries Joketani Cokanasiga.
While opening the Second Expert Meeting on Forest Financing in Small Island Developing States at the Tanoa International Hotel yesterday, he said forests had been providing an enormous amount of environmental, social and economic benefits since the beginning of time.
"It provides the environment for the development of agriculture ensuring food security through the provision of fertile land and water for the natural irrigation of vast areas of land," Mr Cokanasiga said.
"Forests are a key component of our natural environment and play a central role in our national development and support the economic growth of small islands developing states," he said.
Mr Cokanasiga also noted the declining productive forests attributed to the increasing pressure on forest resources for agriculture and development.
He said the multiple roles of trees and forests at the national context were rapidly changing.
"In the past, the concern of the forest sector used to be focused on ensuring that there is always a sustained flow of timber from the forest for national development and the trees in the forests are managed as such. But now the key word is sustainable development."
He said sustainable forest management was now much broader and included an integrated approach to forest management, maintaining the integrity of the forest ecosystems, and keeping future development options open.
He added there were other issues to be considered such as co-ordination, capacity building and building the principles of good governance into the system in order to gain stakeholder trust within the process and between the organisations involved.
"We also need to identify areas of cross sectoral collaboration to ensure efficiency and effectiveness in the implementation of activities and usage of scarce resources," Mr Cokanasiga said.
The meeting, attended by 17 countries representatives and eight regional and international organisations, ends on Friday.