Fostering unity to promote sustainable forestry and safeguard Pacific livelihoods
From protecting sawn timber exports, saving coconut industries from an aggressive strain of the coconut rhinoceros beetle and supporting the revival of sandalwood exports, forestry is an important area of work for the PHAMA Program. At the core of its support for its forestry-related activities, PHAMA has always strived to ensure its approach promotes sustainable forest management practices.
On 21 March, PHAMA joins the world in celebrating the International Day of Forests. Addressing the theme “Forests and Sustainable Cities”, this year’s celebration is a reminder of the importance of forests and trees to the environment and biodiversity, communities and individuals. The theme also seeks to highlight how forests and trees foster unity among communities. Here we share a few stories of PHAMA’s support and progress in developing forestry sectors in Pacific island countries:
When issues of illegal logging became a global concern, governments and industries worldwide moved to strengthen legal frameworks to better regulate the trade of wood and forest products. As the main markets for the Solomon Islands’ sawn timber exports, Australia and New Zealand also indicated their intentions to close market access for Solomon Islands’ timber unless adequate progress was made to improve legality assurance and sustainability. With market access at risk, PHAMA initiated collaborations between the public and private sectors which led to the formation of the Solomon Islands Timber Processors and Exporters Association or SITPEA. The program has also been instrumental in helping the Solomon Islands develop timber legality assurance guidelines, facilitating the adoption of an internationally recognised legality verification standards and improving sawn timber quality and value adding. Unlike the logging sector, the sawn timber industry has relatively low extraction rates and, if well managed, offers a sustainable export industry and better returns to landowners.
Sandalwood is a relatively small export industry for Vanuatu but is a high-value product with potential to grow given the strong global demand and establishment of new plantations. In 2017, PHAMA conducted a value chain study for sandalwood in Vanuatu, which indicated there was opportunity to support improvements in export pricing for sandalwood exporters and landowners. PHAMA has since worked with industry stakeholders to consider the study findings, and is currently developing an auction system to improve transparency and pricing of sandalwood sales. Complementing this, stakeholders of the sandalwood industry recently formed the Vanuatu Islands Sandalwood Association (VISA), a platform for representatives of the public and private sectors to strengthen this growing industry, with a focus on sustainable management practices and livelihood benefits to growers.
PHAMA has supported several activities to help control the spread of the coconut rhinoceros beetle (CRB), which is causing significant damage to coconut and oil palm plantations in the Solomon Islands. Recognising the scale of the issue, PHAMA collaborated with the Solomon Islands Government, private sector, SPC and others to establish a public-private CRB Taskforce and appoint a CRB Management Coordinator to better coordinate the management response. Other work has included a recent CRB Awareness and Communications Workshop at which industry stakeholders and communications specialists worked together to identify better ways of ensuring awareness of the CRB threat facilitating effective management action among communities.
Through its support, PHAMA has initiated closer working relationships among stakeholders who are now working together to save the coconut industry and the thousands of local livelihoods local that depend on it.
Tropical Cyclone Gita caused significant damage to crops and coconut plantations in Tonga, destroying over 40,000 coconut trees. Known as the tree of life to the communities of the Pacific Islands, the milling and processing of the fallen coconut logs was initiated by the PHAMA Program as a means of utilising the fallen stems and generating valuable products and income at this difficult time for Tongan communities. Through the Tonga Market Access Working Group, the PHAMA Program provided chainsaws, milling equipment and technical training with the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forests in Tonga.