The University of Fiji has embarked on a project using the traditional canoe, the Drua I Vola Sigavou, to undertake research in Vuda and surrounding areas on how traditional knowledge is able to mitigate the effects of climate change.
UniFiji says the I Vola Sigavou will leave Vuda Marina and sail to the coastal communities of Viseisei, Lawaki and Namoli to engage in the participatory action research from today.
They say the University has engaged the I Vola Sigavou with skipper Captain Setareki Ledua to sail staff and student researchers into these communities to record traditional ways of mitigating climate change.
They say the communities are participating actively in the research with the University by exchanging information on the state of their environment, for example, land, sea and seashore, and strategies they are using to minimise deterioration of their livelihoods as sea level rise and global warming rapidly begin to destroy their traditional sources of food.
UniFiji Vice Chancellor, Professor Shaista Shameem says the project had been launched in October 2022 with Ratu Iliesa Cebaivalu, the Taukei Sawaieke and representative of the Tui Vuda sailing on the I Vola Sigavou into the lagoon from the Marina.
She says Ratu Iliesa was accompanied by a representative of the Royal Society of Arts Manufactures and Commerce Andrea Siodmok, who had traveled from London in support of the launch.
Professor Shameem says the University then took months to prepare the research programme and protocols to ensure that the community was involved in the project in a partnership from the start.
She says all five Schools of the University are engaged in the research project with different areas of responsibility accorded to the Schools of Science, Law, Medicine, Business and Economics and Arts and Humanities.
Prof. Shameem says the Centre for iTaukei Studies of the University has played the central role to ensure all traditional protocols and communication were arranged so that the voyage could progress smoothly over 10 days.
While launching the Drua research project in 2022 Ratu Iliesa had said that the Drua was the bastion from which true holistic education, ground in ancient values of the Vanua and value-added with the Gurukul philosophy of the University of Fiji, would chart the way forward for the future.
He also said that more needed to be to combat climate change but the solutions were already embedded in the language, values, kinship and traditions of the Vanua.
Ratu Iliesa also said the trick is knowing how to tap into this ancient ideology and contextualize it to suit today’s situation.
He said in doing so, the University of Fiji will not only be educating for mere qualification, through the Drua Project it will re-equip and re-empower its students and tomorrow’s leaders to be lifelong custodians of the people and the environment via its heightened ways of learning, unlearning, and re-learning.
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