Pacific forest experts exchange ideas

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Fisheries and Forestry Ministry permanent secretary Atelaite Rokosuka with the 20 forest experts from around the Pacific. Picture: SUPPLIED

More than 20 Pacific forest experts are meeting in Nadi to exchange and learn from selected good experiences in the management of forests on customary lands in the Pacific.

Opening the workshop, Fisheries and Forestry Ministry permanent secretary Atelaite Rokosuka said customary land ownership was an integral part of land governance in the Pacific, with extended families, clans or tribes owning and managing 85–98 per cent of lands, including forests.

Ms Rokosuka said effective customary rules and management of land and resources, as well as solid policy, legal frameworks and enforcement, were necessary for the good governance of Pacific forests.

“This is where you and I, as custodians of these natural resources, come in to ensure better and more robust policies and legislation are developed to protect the sustainability of our forests for current and future generations,” Ms Rokosuka said in a statement.

“The success of any forestry initiative in the Pacific Islands, including forest-based businesses, timber concessions, conservation initiatives, payment for ecosystem services, REDD (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) programs and restoration initiatives, depends on good governance within customary institutions.

“Good governance can ensure strengthened implementation of the activities, with greater inclusion of community members, improved results for forests and livelihoods and more equitable sharing of benefits.”

Ms Rokosuka said the Pacific region was, in many ways, several steps ahead of other countries around the world that had been de-centralising and, devolving forest governance to local actors only over the past four decades.

The workshop will focus on strengthening local governance through co-learning on how customary institutions can strengthen decision-making and downward accountability of customary leaders, adopt inclusive and transparent governance structures, and enhance the participation of women and youth, improve processes of land and forest management through collective planning and ensure tenure security of all community members.

The four-day workshop was organised by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and supported by the Ministry of Forestry.