There is a need to nurture more stewards who can protect and conserve the natural environment. These sentiments were expressed by the Fiji National University’s (FNU) College of Agriculture and Fisheries and Forestry (CAFF) PhD scholar, Tiraon Taioti.
Taioti is pursuing his PhD studies after securing a scholarship under the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) Pacific Agriculture Scholarship and Support – Climate Change (PASS-CR) program.
The ACIAR PASS-CR enables research collaboration in research and capacity building to address common production issues and opportunities. This includes projects addressing biosecurity, climate resilient livelihoods, and opportunities for stronger agribusiness development.
The collaboration with ACIAR PASS-CR is in line with one of the key pillars of FNU’s Strategic Plan 2021-2026 – Research with real world impact and underpins one of the objectives, which is to build partnerships with overseas universities, governments, NGOs and funders to finance international competitive, collaborative, challenge-based research.
FNU’s research framework is further aligned with one of the SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production) targets – sustainable management and use of natural resources.
Taioti is currently pursuing research on the Contribution of Agroforestry Towards Rural Livelihoods and Forest Restoration, which is part of a project led by Professor Helen Wallace of Griffith University in Australia.
Having gained a Masters with Distinction from the University of West Indies in Trinidad and Tobago in 2019, Taioti felt the need to continue research on biodiversity and sustainability, which influenced the decision for his current research.
“I am interested in the natural environment and how to preserve and conserve our forests,” he said. “Deforestation and degradation in the name of development and expansion are the main causes of unsustainable agriculture and this places a lot of risk on our natural resources, especially our forests and biodiversity.”
He added that agroforestry initiatives could potentially assist in ensuring issues like deforestation are mitigated. “Traditional practices of agroforestry in our communities have slowly eroded. Unsustainable activities are slowly destroying our forests, so we need to encourage the concept of agroforestry.”
“We need to influence and encourage people to be more economical and plant trees that are socially and ecologically important, ones that provide fruits and herbal medicine for instance, and those that retain soil and provide shelter and habitat.”
Taioti is a lecturer at FNU and has taken study leave to pursue his PhD. He hopes to revive traditional practices of conservation and believes these measures could assist in the sustainability efforts of the University and the wider community.
After attaining his PhD, Taioti hopes to return to the University to be able to impart learning and help motivate the younger generation toward forest conservation.
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