99-year lease signed to protect native forests

EFFORTS to conserve their forests took a new turn for members of the mataqali Nadicake in Kubulau, Bua after the signing of their 99-year forest reserve lease recently.

This comes after the iTaukei Land Trust Board signed the lease with non-governmental organisation, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) for the protection of 402 hectares of native forests.

A WCS statement said this would be the first forest conservation area that will be managed by the community in partnership with WCS.

“The landowning unit has been voluntarily protecting its forest since 2006 and will now be receiving rental payment for Kilaka Forest Conservation Area that covers 402 hectares of native, near-pristine, highly bio-diverse forests,” WCS said. “Kilaka Forest is a national priority for Fiji that has received the endorsement of the National Protected Areas Committee.

“WCS, in consultation with the landowning unit earlier developed a management plan for the Kilaka Forest Conservation Area that was launched by the Fiji Minister for Forests, Osea Naiqamu in 2016.

“The ministry also trained two members of the landowning unit who have now become registered forest wardens who will play a key role in ensuring rules and activities in the management plan are adhered to.”

Meanwhile, WCS policy adviser Ruci Lumelume said the lease agreement would be the first of its kind in the Bua Province where communities were directly involved in the protection of their forests.

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