Fiji PM zeroes in on food security, climate change during USP Samoa Campus visit


SAMOA CAMPUS PRESS RELEASE – The Prime Minister of Fiji, Honourable Sitiveni Rabuka, zeroed in on climate change and the importance of localised food security when he visited The University of the South Pacific’s Samoa Campus in Alafua last week (June 2, 2023).
He noted that supply routes and food security for the Pacific region are “very easily interdicted” after a brief, informative tour of the campus library and soil laboratory.

Ground-breaking agricultural research at Samoa Campus can help to counter the hostile interdictions triggered by events beyond the control of the Pacific region, such as the war between Russia and Ukraine.

“I’m glad that I am here as the world tries to combat climate change and the effects of that on the world and the effects of the various phenomena; some very hostile, affecting our lines of communication, from our supply sources for food. It brings home to us the importance of localised food security,” Prime Minister Rabuka said.

He said the Samoa Campus in Alafua is incredibly useful as it develops the sciences to combat “artificial interruptions” and “interdictions” to our supply routes and food security.

The Prime Minister added that hostile activities like the war between Russia and Ukraine very easily interdict food sourced by farmers in other continents.

He said that global market volatility linked to the Ukrainian war had worsened by increasing freight and fuel costs.

“That’s where your campus will come in very, very useful, and you develop the sciences that will combat these artificial interruptions, interdictions to our supply routes or our food security sourced by other farmers in other continents. It is made worse by the shipping cost; when insurance companies increase the premiums from shipping companies, everything goes up, and the fuel goes up, and we suffer. In our small island territories, the cost of living goes up,” said Prime Minister Rabuka.

“So, as you study in this area of agriculture and you look at food security, perhaps we could also look at reducing our reliance, our ability to reduce our reliance on the world market out there. There is so much that the world can do to make us suffer. There is still much more that we can do to reduce and alleviate the costs and rises we come up against when things happen beyond our control and boundaries,” he added.

The Prime Minister, his wife, Mrs Sulueti Rabuka and their delegation were received and welcomed by USP Chief Operating Officer, Mr Walter Fraser.

The PM was taken on a tour of the Samoa Campus by Student Welfare Officer (SWO) Galumalemana Ronna Lee.

During the tour, Mr and Mrs Rabuka expressed much interest and were deeply inspired by Dr Joeli’s Veitayaki’s yasi/asi trees initiative. Dr Veitayaki previously served as Acting Campus Director at Samoa Campus.

A select group of USP Samoa Campus students and graduate students received a golden opportunity to present their research on the Biology and Ecology of interactions between natural enemies to the Prime Minister, his delegation, students and USP staff.

Senior Laboratory Technician Dr Viliame Savou and Associate Professor of Soil Science Dr Adbul Kader received the visitors at the Soil Laboratory; and later met Shirley Devi, the campus librarian.

The Prime Minister said he used to be involved with USP and previously served as Chairman of the Advisory Committee at the Labasa Centre.

“Labasa, it was a centre then, now a full-blown campus, and we in Vanua Levu welcomed that because it brought a reputable institution of learning at the tertiary level into our island, Vanua Levu,” he said.

Prime Minister Rabuka thanked the USP Samoa Campus for the tour and remarked about venturing out of his comfort zone a second time to address a university audience.

“When I addressed the students and staff at the USP Laucala Campus earlier this year when Professor Pal Ahluwalia was allowed to come back to Fiji, I said I always felt uncomfortable speaking in universities because I have never been into a university,” he said.

“Thank you very much for the short tour here today. As I said, I am always uncomfortable speaking to university audiences, so I’m glad I have this opportunity. I had one earlier, and look out – I’m getting more comfortable.”

The University of the South Pacific’s Samoa Campus has 531 registered students.

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