Saving Fiji’s ‘last remaining intact forests’

Dr Shipra Shah Fiji National University, Paulo Santos Monash Business School
Dr Shipra Shah Fiji National University, Dr Paulo Santos Monash Business School

Saving Fiji’s ‘last remaining intact forests’

Despite their ecological significance, agricultural expansion and commercial logging are putting Fiji’s precious forests at risk.

But Dr Shipra Shah from Fiji National University, and Dr Paulo Santos from Monash Business School are leading a project to promote sustainable land management practices and help save Fiji’s forests from deforestation and degradation.

Assistant Professor in Forestry Dr Shah, and Senior Lecturer in Economics Dr Santos, are working to end the threat by making agroforestry economically viable.

“Given the high pressure that landowners and managers in Fiji face for commercial logging of their native forests, and agriculture-driven deforestation across islands, we felt that there was a strong need to position agroforestry as a sustainable land management practice,” she says.

“Agroforestry can not only contribute to climate mitigation via carbon sequestration but by diverting pressure from existing forests, it provides a unique opportunity to save the last remaining tracts of intact forests across Fiji.”

Dr Shah said the project would enable the wider adoption of agroforestry carbon contracts and improved access to payment mechanisms such as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) – the Ministry of Forestry’s flagship program.

“REDD+ provides a viable opportunity to pay communities for making better choices regarding land management – it allows them to prioritise forest conservation over alternative land uses,” she says.

“By associating monetary rewards with conservation, communities will proactively participate in high carbon land use systems such as agroforestry.”

The project will also evaluate the response of local communities to existing carbon payments for conservation forestry and provide valuable information on the climate mitigation potential of agroforestry systems.

“It’s important to evaluate the response of local communities to existing carbon payments so we can improve processes and practises to enable wider implementation,” Dr Shah says.