REDD+ Community Exchange in Fiji: At the end of 10 years of REDD+ support by GIZ in the Pacific Island Countries

10 March 2021
REDD+ Community Exchange Workshop participants, visiting the Nadroumai women group / Nadroumai village close to Sigatoka on March 09, 2021. Copyright by Pacific Community (SPC) – Land Resources Division and GIZ.

The BMU-funded IKI project “REDD+ Conservation in Pacific Island Countries” will end in March, 2021, looking back on more than 10 years of REDD+ readiness support provided to four Melanesian Island Countries. In Fiji, on the local level, several communities were significantly involved in both REDD+ forest conservation as well as sustainable forest management practices. The REDD+ communities came together for the first time for a facilitated, intense exchange on experiences and lessons learned, elaborating useful hints and recommendations for the German Development Cooperation for a continued support of the forest sector with active community involvement in the future.

The Republic of Fiji has achieved a milestone of crucial importance in its efforts for forest conservation: Fiji’s government signed a long-prepared Emission Reductions Payment Agreement (ERPA) with the World Bank on February 1st, 2021, committing itself to a value of at least 12.5 Mio. US$ for verified emission reductions through forest conservation. This amount will be provided by the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) of the World Bank, a financial reward for Fiji for its ongoing efforts to lower carbon emissions from deforestation and forest degradation through 2025. Since 2009, Fiji is one of the REDD+ countries in the Pacific and has achieved many milestones in its mitigation efforts in addressing climate change impacts in the country as a whole, and forest degradation in particular. The majority of the population in the Pacific continues to live traditional lifestyles, and the social and cultural role of the forest is more than essential for them.

The long-going political process and preparation of the ERPA was also supported by GIZ, providing advisory to the National REDD+ Steering Committee of Fiji and the Ministry of Forestry in the frame of two impactful and connected IKI projects, implemented from 2010 to 2021. The Fijian-German cooperation in the forest sector is a real success story, lasting for more than 35 years – initiated already in 1985 on a bilateral scale (Fiji-German Forestry Project). This was followed by a long period covered by the “Pacific German Regional Forestry Project” (1994-2008), “Coping with Climate Change in the Pacific Island Region (CCCPIR)” (2009-2021) and the REDD+-focused, regional BMU-funded projects “Climate Protection through Forest Conservation in Pacific Island Countries (REDD+ I) (2010-2015) and “REDD+ Forest Conservation in Pacific Island Countries” (REDD+ II) (2015-2021).

It is a remarkable coincidence that the success of the signed ERPA between Fiji and the FCPF falls into the same time period with the closure of “REDD+ Forest Conservation in Pacific Island Countries”, commissioned by the BMU since 2015 and extended for a final time until March 31st, 2021. The political, regional partner organization of the project is the Pacific Community (SPC), a very impactful and trusted partner of GIZ in the Pacific, and especially within the forest sector since 1997. The project operated on the regional, national and local level, supporting four Melanesian island countries – Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu – to achieve a “REDD+ Readiness” by fulfilling all requirements to participate in the REDD+ mechanism of the UNFCCC. All four partner countries made significant progress in their REDD+ journeys and achievements, be it on the policy level, regarding their National Forest Inventories (NFI) and other components of the National Forest Monitoring Systems, or on the ground in various demonstration and pilot sites for REDD+ and Sustainable Forest Management (SFM). An important share of the project’s activities were numerous Human Capacity Development (HCD) measures in all four partner countries.

At the local level, there are especially three communities in Fiji that have been a significant part of the REDD+ initiative and contributed a lot to the country’s national REDD+ and climate change reporting. These communities are Draubuta (Emalu) located in Navosa, Viti Levu, Navakavu, located in Navua, Viti Levu, and Drawa, located in the Cakaudrove province on the island of Vanua Levu. Each of these communities specialized on certain aspects related to REDD+, SFM practices, and the development of sustainable income alternatives which support the conservation of natural forests and their multiple ecosystem services while enhancing the local livelihoods. The Drawa Forest Block REDD+ Pilot Project achieved its first sale of verified emission reductions in 2018 and is very successful on both the carbon market as well as in sustainable forest management. In the national forest research site of Nakavu, research on sustainable forest management practices has been conducted for more than 30 years, supported by the German Cooperation from the beginning.

Each involved village is looking back on its own success story with different strategies, priorities, local conditions, experiences, and lessons learned. The villages had unsteady exchange and were naturally aware of the activities and importance of the others, but a formal, organized mutual exchange was still pending. As the REDD+II project comes to an end, it was decided by SPC and GIZ to bring the communities together for a mutual, productive exchange and facilitated discussions on their success stories, challenges and rewards, benefits from both REDD+ and SFM, local sustainable businesses using the forest ecosystem services while conserving its ecological integrity, and lessons learned after all these years of involvement in REDD+ and the projects implemented by SPC-GIZ.

The “REDD+ Community Exchange Workshop” takes place from March 7-13, 2021, as one of the very final events of the REDD+ II project, being facilitated by the Land Resources Division (LRD) of SPC and supported by members from both Fiji’s Ministry of Forestry and Ministry of Agriculture. More than 20 representatives from the three Fijian communities are participating and have a very productive, vivid exchange, enriched by field trips and demonstrations on site at the villages Nakavu and Drawa as well as the tree seedling nursery run exclusively by women of the Nadroumai village close to Sigatoka.

The outcome of the event – summarized lessons learned, recommendations and finally also desires and wishes of the communities for the future – will be important to inform both SPC and the German Development Cooperation on potential components of forthcoming projects in Fiji and the Pacific. For the time being, there is no direct follow-up project for “REDD+ Forest Conservation in Pacific Island Countries” in sight, and therefore this chapter of the Fijian-German development cooperation will be closed – maybe just temporarily. Not only the villagers of Drawa, Nakavu and Emalu have high hopes that Germany will continue to support and accompany their journeys in REDD+ and Sustainable Forest Management, as there is still a long way to go until their impressive success stories and experiences are upscaled and established on the national and regional level.

Dr. Oliver Schlein, Project Director, “REDD+ Forest Conservation in Pacific Island Countries” (P.N. 14.9040.8)

Link to project website: https://www.giz.de/en/worldwide/18149.html

Key buzzwords: Fiji, Pacific, REDD+, sustainable forest management, forest conservation, community support.