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8. Fiji

Country data

Total land area (thousand ha)


Total forest area 1995 (thousand ha)/percentage of total land area(%)


Natural forest 1995 (thousand ha)


Total change in forest cover 1990-95 (thousand ha)/annual change (%)

-18/-4 (-0.4)

Population total 1997 (millions)/Annual rate of change 1995-2000


Rural population 1997 (%)


GNP per person 1995 in US$


Source of data: FAO - State of the World's Forest 1999

General information

Fiji is made up of 300 islands, one-third of which are permanently inhabited. Most economic activities are concentrated on the two largest islands, Vita Levu and Vanua Levu, which together account for 87% of the entire land area and 90% of the total population. The islands are largely volcanic of varying goelogical age and of reasonably fertile soils with fairly steep dissected topography in the forest areas.

Arable land (13% of the land area and expanding) is mainly used for the planting of sugar cane, rice, cocoa, ginger and other crops. Over 80% of the land is covered by forests, tree crops and pastures. Gold production has expanded dramatically and is now the second largest export commodity. The tourism industry offers the most immediate prospect for investment. Forestry is currently in transition from plantation management to pulp chips and sawn timber exports, and is expected to become an industry in the next ten years.

The forestry sector is described as a “growth sector” in the economy. The sector at present ranks fifth in terms of foreign exchange earnings and provides direct employment to 3000 people. The forestry activities, which are mostly located in rural areas, can be seen as pioneering rural develop- ment by providing the necessary infrastructure for subsequent development.

Fiji has been self-sufficient in most timber products through the utilisation of its indigenous forest resources for more than ten years. A programme of resource development through large scale plantation of pine and hardwood was implemented after 1960. The afforestation has brought some 50,000 ha of deforested land back into production.

The Forestry Department continues to be part of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forests, under the Agricultural Landlord and Tenant Act, following the March 1994 General Election, and is supported by six service divisions i.e. Silviculture Research, Timber Utilisation Research, Management Services, Logging School, and Environment and Mechanical Services Division. The Forestry Department has a plantation programme target of 4,500 ha per year with an end target of 80-85 thousand ha of hardwood plantations by the end of the century. Pine plantations have been undertaken by the Fiji Pine Limited company.

Forest resources, policy, planning and land use

The indigenous forest is largely tropical moist forest plus a small area of about 42,000 ha of mangrove forests. Extensive areas of the drier parts of the two larger islands (mainly western) and many of the smaller islands have suffered severe deforestation. Therefore, the indigenous forest cover is actually much more than 50% in the wetter parts of the country. 84% of all Fijian forests are in communal ownership.

The recent GTZ re-inventory of the indigenous forests indicates a total volume of 20,0 million m3 is available in the production forests. About 75% of the production forests have average stocking of 45 m3 of commercial species per ha.

Fiji Pine Limited, which is a 99.8% government-owned company, has achieved a total stocked area of 40,730 ha of Pinus caribaea. In addition, Viti Levu plantations of about 27,200 ha provide approximately 300,000 tonnes of logs per year to sustain the Tropic Wood Mill, which produces sawn timber and chips. Currently, Fiji has a total hardwood plantation estate of about 50,000 ha, of which 37,300 ha are planted with mahagony.

A provisional GTZ re-inventory indicated that indigenous forests occupy 857,577 ha, and estimated that unexploited forests total 253,000 ha. Eighty-nine percent of the unexploited production forests and 84% of all Fijian Forests are in communal ownership.

By the end of 1995, 44,978 ha had been planted (mostly mahagony), and there are plans to extend the planting area to 52,000 ha by the year 2006. Plantations have been established in two major areas in Western Viti Levu and in Vanua Levu. The current planting rate is 3,000 ha per annum.

Through out the 1970s and early 1980s, several attempts were made to establish a National Body that could effectively deal with co-ordination and proper use of land resources in Fiji. The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forests (MAFGF) played a major role in the formation of committees whose objectives included land development, land use planning and co-ordination.

In 1993, the National Environment Strategy of Fiji recognised that Fiji needed a National Land Use Plan that was based on the capacity of the land, to assist in determining appropriate land use resource allocation for the sustainable development of Fiji's Natural Resources. In 1995, the Cabinet approved the concept of a comprehensive and integrated new Sustainable Bill, which would revise and consolidate existing environmental and resource management legislation and create new legal framework for integrated resource management.

In 1996, a proposal for Land Use Planning requesting FAO assistance was approved. In 1997, the Pacific German Regional Forestry Project co-ordinated an Agro-forestry Policy Working Group comprising extension officers, researchers and farmers. The group discussed and prepared a two-part draft Agroforestry Policy Paper for Fiji. After further discussions and review of the draft policy, the group realised that there was a vital need for a natural land use plan and policy as an umbrella to ensure adoption of the Agro-forestry policy. A national land use policy was deemed necessary to advance the sustainable development of Fiji's land and water resources.

The National Forests Action Plan prepared in 1989 under the Tropical Forestry Action Programme framework, was a classic investment plan. The exercise led to the identification of 29 projects, which were presented to donors in May 1990.

Although the NFAP document has not been formally approved by the Government, it has received tacit approval and is now being implemented: 25 of the 29 project proposals have been implemented or are currently under execution, either individually or grouped together. The preparation of project proposals mainly aimed at institutional building (e.g.: reviews of the royalty and pulpwood system, forestry legislation) has been completed or is under way. A project for the establishment of a national park system is being planned for 1998. Background work is under way.


The major factor determining allocation of timber cutting rights in Fiji, as elsewhere in the South Pacific Islands, is the pattern of land ownership. The bulk of the land, including productive forest land, is owned by Fijian communal groups called “mataqali”. Fijian mataqali do not have any corporate authority to deal in land, and all negotiations for the use of the indigenous timber growing on their land have to be conducted through the Native Lands Trust Board (NLTB). To harvest timber on native land, a Forestry Right Licence is required under law.

There are four categories of tenure for timber cutting rights in the natural forests:

· Timber concessions (15-30 years period);

· Long-term licences (10 years);

· Annual licences; and

· Other licences and prepayment licences (usually for land clearing).

The Government has continued to promote the development of sustainable forest management, both through domestic policy development and at international fora. Fiji has signed and ratified the International Convention on Biological Diversity and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Recently, the Government became a member of ITTO.

The Sustainable Forest Management Model developed in collaboration with the GTZ Pacific-German Forestry Project on a 300 ha block forest, is now being tried out at an operational level on a 6,300 ha block of forest involving a concessionaire. The pre-harvesting inventory data collection work is complete and harvesting prescriptions are currently being worked out. Depending upon the outcome of the operational level trial, it is proposed to adopt the Sustainable Forest Management System Fiji-wide as a matter of policy by the year 2003.

In order to make the landowners aware of the long-term benefits of the Sustainable Forest Management System, ITTO has supported a two-year project, of approximately US$0.5 million, for landowners' education and awareness on the sustainable use of their forests. The project will be completed by the end of 2000.

Fiji's own National Code of Logging Practice was launched in 1990 and has been in operation for approximately 10 years. All logging licences are subject to compliance with the Fiji National Code of Logging Practice. It is felt that environmental issues are not being fully addressed and need to be considered and incorporated in the next review. Operator training and certification of operators, particularly in timber harvesting and the proposed mahagony harvesting, are the main priority activities.

Biodiversity conservation

Fiji is a signatory of the Convention on Biodiversity and therefore a Contracting Party of the Convention. The Fiji Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan is Fiji's initial response to this obligation. It was crafted in 1989 with UNDP funding.

To date there is one declared Protected Forest, namely Batiwai Forest, with a Gulubia microcarpa palm population, of approximately 15,749 ha. There are 17 proclaimed Forest Reserves covering an area of 26,203 ha. There are 7 Nature Reserves in the country covering an area of 5,740 ha. In addition, the sand dunes in Sigatoka with an area of 650 ha have been declared as a National Heritage Park. The Forest Department, in collaboration with other organisations, is identifying and developing eco-tourism areas and other areas of special interest, including Bouma and Lavena Parks in Taveuni, Abaca Parks in Viti Levu, and Natavuni Port in Sigatoka Valley.

Collaboration with partners

The Department of Forestry has been collaborating with foreign partners and several memorandums of understanding have been signed, including: a) GTZ support and assistance in sustainable forest management system and practice, and agroforestry and sustainable land use plans; b) AusAid support for nutritional aspects of plantation species; c) ACIAR/CSIRO support for the biological control programme; d) ITTO funds for a land owner awareness programme; and e) SPC/UNDP/FAO/AusAid/GTZ support to the Pacific Island Forest and Tress Programme.

Focal point
Conservator of Forests,
Forestry Department
Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forests
P.O. Box 2218
Suva, Fiji
Tel (679) 302740 301740 301611
Fax (679) 301595


Ask, and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you.
For those who ask will receive, and those who seek will find, and
the door will be opened to anyone who knocks.

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