By MAIKELI SERU
The United States Ambassador to Fiji, Frankie Reed, has called on the nation to preserve sago palm and also forests in the country.
She made the remark while commissioning the re-planting of sago palms during World Forest Day at Vuniniudrovu Village, Naitasiri, last Friday.
“The world recognises World Forest Day and allows us to recognise the critical role forests play in our daily lives,” Ms Reed said.
“Forests have economic, social and cultural values. This is especially true for the sago palm.
“Once widely used and highly valued by the iTaukei, overharvesting has put this Palm at risk of extinction.”
She was joined on the day by villagers, students of Adi Cakobau School, Navuso Methodist High School, and organisers of the event – NatureFiji-MareqetiViti and Tahila Group.
“Thanks to the efforts of you all here today, especially the villagers who will serve as custodians of the palm.
“There is hope that the palm will once again be found throughout Fiji and, by implementing sustainable harvesting practices, these palms will create jobs as they sustainably supply material for the Fijian tourist industry.
“Forest supplies us with food and materials. Forests provide habitat for birds and animals.
“A healthy forest provides us with cooling shade and calming presence. In short, a healthy forest is part of a healthy planet.
“By being here we are helping to assure that sago palms not only are enjoyed by this generation, but also that of our children, and our children’s children,” she said.
Soga or Fiji Sago Palm is found only in the Fiji Islands, mainly on Viti Levu and Ovalau.
It grows well in swampy areas or wet lands to a height of around 15 metres.
The soga takes 20 years to mature before bearing fruit.
It has been identified, however, that more than 60 per cent of all sago palms have been lost to Fiji because of harvesting for thatch to serve the tourist industry, and because of harvesting for its core or heart.
The sago palm has been listed as an endangered species by conservationists, Nature-Fiji-MareqetiViti.
Sago palm is now in serious risk of extinction.
Today only 12 isolated populations survive – mainly in pockets on the coastal plains and three significant inland populations along the Navua River.
Only one or two small, doubtfully native strands survive in the Rewa Delta.
On Ovalau, only a single small population is reported to survive.
Villagers will act as custodians of the palms and ensure they are cultivated in a manner that would preserve them until they seed and die.
The project is viable owing to the donation of approximately 1000 sago palms by Tahila Group, and has gained the official support of the Department of Forests.