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Launching of the 4 Million Trees in 4 Years Initiative

January 8, 2019       State House, Suva

The Minister for Forestry, Honourable Osea Naiqamu;

The Permanent Secretary and senior staff of the Ministry of Forestry

Members of the Media

Distinguished Guests, ladies and gentlemen

Ni sa bula Vinaka and good morning to you all.

I am deeply honoured to host you here at the State House and to launch one of Fiji’s new and very important national priorities - and that is the planting of 4 Million Trees in 4 Years.  And I thank you Honourable Minister for enlightening us on some of the reasons for this initiative.

I could not think of a better alternative than to launch this national initiative right here at the State House and to plant the first of our four million trees here at the Presidential Compound. I believe that in developing this initiative, Government has shown that it has visionary leadership to provide a more sustainable resource that could significantly benefit the communities that rely on the forestry sector, and benefit the nation as a whole.

This initiative builds on the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, particularly Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 15, and supports the New York Declaration on Forests which aims to end natural forest loss globally by 2030.The SDGs and New York Declaration aim to restore 350 million hectares of the world’s deforested and degraded lands by 2030.

Fiji’s forest cover will increase exponentially, which could only mean that as a Nation, we will be able to help – as the Honourable Minister has said - with greening our towns and cities, maintaining and protecting our forests and pristine natural environment, reducing soil erosion and siltation, offsetting some of our carbon output, and contributing to climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Importantly, this initiative could mean that the forestry sector could significantly increase its contribution to our economic growth.

I understand that the sector has been contributing about $40 Million towards our economy annually for the past decade. This equates to about 0.6 percent of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This new initiative will make a huge difference. The initiative can also support greener technology and renewable energy.

I am also particularly pleased because only two months ago, we welcomed the Duke of Sussex, Prince Harry, who officially dedicated the Colo-i-Suva Forest Park as part of the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy. The QCC aims to create a network of forest conservation initiatives throughout the Commonwealth member countries.

This 4 Million Trees initiative will mean that we will not only be able to dedicate one, or two forest areas under conservation, but we will definitely have more areas around the country that could be dedicated under the QCC.

I wish to commend the Government, through the Ministry of Forestry, on the work it has done so far in forest conservation and restoring degraded and deforested land which are clearly articulated in Fiji’s 5-Year and 20-Year National Development Plan.

This 4 Million Trees initiative not only reflects visionary leadership on the part of Government, but it also reflects a deep sense of responsibility – that we could leave our beloved Nation in a better state than when we found it.

Just imagine if all countries around the world were to plant millions of trees! We can definitely leave our Planet in a better state for our future generations who are now becoming more aware of the negative impacts of Climate Change and our global obligation as responsible citizens of today to protect and preserve our only planet’s natural environment.

The 4 Million Trees initiative will no doubt have a positive and lasting impact on the lives of our resource owners, and this is extremely vital in Government’s quest to ensure the equitable distribution of wealth among the urban and rural areas.

I have every confidence that this same socio-economic impact will benefit all Fijians as the forestry sector increases its contribution to our Nation’s economic growth.

Government’s new national priorities on forestry essentially include the sustainable management of Fiji’s forests resources to cater for both the current and future needs and in the process, to increase the forestry sector’s contribution to Fiji’s economic growth.

This new initiative will help the Nation to be in a better position to strike a balance between conservation and the sustainable utilization of our forests resources. I have no doubt that the Ministry of Forestry will reach out to as many stakeholders as humanly possible to help us achieve this national target.

Groups like the resource owners, women and youth groups, schools, the forestry and business sectors, and both our international and domestic development partners, including the non-governmental organisations, and individuals can all add significant value to this initiative.

Here at the State House, the trees that we will plant today will complement a Master Plan that we have developed to beautify the Presidential Compound. That is why I am also pleased to hear the Honourable Minister say that the 4 Million Trees will include all types of trees from timber trees to fruit trees, ornamental trees, non-wood species and mangroves, among others.

I had asked the Ministry to identify 14 trees to plant today to symbolically represent Fiji’s 14 provinces.  And in planting the first of the 4 Million Trees, I wish to encourage all Fijians to plant more than one tree this year.

I urge all stakeholders to support this forward-looking initiative, and to plant for Fiji and plant for the Planet.

May Almighty God bless this initiative and our beloved nation.

Vinaka vakalevu and Thank you.