Indigenous knowledge ‘under threat’ yet ‘critical’ to conserve Fiji
Mere Rosi Komailevuka believes Fiji’s traditional knowledge of unique island biodiversity and resource-use systems are “under threat” yet “critical” for the country’s effective environmental conservation.
On International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, the Master of Environmental Science student explains why bridging the gap between Indigenous and science-based knowledge is vital to Fiji’s health and posterity.
The Women’s Leadership Initiative scholar intends to share her knowledge and networks to encourage Fiji’s ecologists and natural resource owners to work together to find solutions.
Fiji’s traditional environmental knowledge
According to Mere, Fijian communities have long “histories of interacting with their respective natural surroundings”. These practices and learnings, she says, have developed over many years and are passed down verbally over generations.
“Today, traditional marine resource management continues to be practiced by coastal communities in Fiji, contributing broadly to the preservation of local resources, and the spiritual, cultural and economic well-being of the Fijian people,” she explains.
But Mere and other experts worry that Fiji’s unique biodiversity inheritance and sustainable practices, which she believes “set Fijian people apart from the rest of the world”, are under threat of being lost to modernisation.
“There is a critical need more than ever before to preserve, record and promote the use of traditional knowledge as a basis for sustainable development and conservation in the future,” she says.
Bridging the gap between science and tradition
Mere has worked in Fiji’s Department of Environment for eight years, has a background in marine science and environmental geoscience, and studies land rehabilitation through her Master’s.
And when it comes to solving Fiji’s conservation problems, Mere says “a more supplementary and reflective coordinated partnership of traditional knowledge and science” is needed.
Mere hopes to promote effective community-led practices, establish cross-cultural networks for monitoring environmental change, assess restoration work based on community needs, and mould a more climate-change-resilient Fijian community.
She also wants to “promote the capacity of our Fijian people to make free prior consent and well-informed decisions on sustainable management and protection of their natural resources”.
Celebrating Indigenous peoples’ continued contributions
To Mere, International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is “a special day to acknowledge our unique heritage, diverse cultures and importantly tracing back our records of origin”.
“To me, it is a celebration of the outstanding achievements regarding traditional knowledge, voices and wisdom of our elders who have left a legacy behind for future generations to protect and uphold,” she adds.
International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is held annually on Sunday 9 August to raise awareness of the achievements, contributions, and rights of the world's Indigenous populations.