Salote Nasalo- Climate Change

She is the first in her family to achieve a degree and for Ms Salote Nasalo, coming to The University of the South Pacific (USP) was always a dream that has now become much more than a goal off her bucket list.

Ms Nasalo is now pursuing a Master of Science in Climate Change while causing ripples of change amongst her group of peers, in her community and the nation.

After fighting many odds earlier in her life and throughout her academic journey, Ms Nasalo is now more determined than ever to have her voice and that of Fijians and Pacific Islanders heard in the current fight against climate change.

Her Master’s thesis is on mangrove restoration, management, monitoring and evaluation with study sites based in Lami and Nasese, Suva.

“I currently compare the natural and human-generated mangrove systems. Human-generated systems refer to mangrove systems developed from mangrove planting initiatives by International non-governmental organisations (INGOs), Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs),  Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and governmental organisations. My study sites are based on areas planted by the PaCE-SD Graduate Students Association in Lami and Nasese,” Ms Nasalo said.

She added she was working on providing recommendations on how planting initiatives could be improved and used at the grassroots level, by comparing the natural regeneration processes of the two sites.

Ms Nasalo said, “I also had another mangrove planting site in Votua, Ba and this is the largest mangrove stand in Fiji. And that was supposed to be the ultimate natural stand, but there were a series of natural disasters that happened so that objective became like a lesson learned and I can further look into that when I develop my PhD trying to study the natural stands in Fiji.”

“We involve ourselves heavily with coastal rehabilitation, including beach cleanups, mangrove planting, and I’ve noticed personally that all the NGOs, CSOs and stakeholders’ mangrove planting initiatives involve planting their mangroves and evaluating how many survived,” she added.

The 33-year-old also highlighted that most people didn’t realise that mangroves were babies and needed to be nurtured. They need to be protected to regenerate and successfully establish themselves in this new home they’ve been planted in.

“What I’m trying to do is develop a proper monitoring and evaluation tool to monitor the success rates of the natural and the human-generated mangrove systems,” she said.

Ms Nasalo said, the research was simple and basic but its importance was crucial to coastal communities not only in Fiji but also across the Pacific.

“Mangroves serve a wide variety of purposes, especially for coastal communities. I for one, have benefited from it because my grandmother used to go out into the mangrove swamps and collect crabs and sell them on the roadside,” she added.

Ms Nasalo hopes that this research will contribute to her passion to support coastal communities.

“I still see people going out catching seashells, catching crabs and catching any form of food or subsistence to support their families. Mangroves are one of the overarching ecosystems that provide for this as subsistence to support coastal communities,” Ms Nasalo stressed.

She said, “We all have to eat, no matter where we come from and my major goal for my research is to support families who depend on the coastal communities for their daily sustenance”.

“If I can provide recommendations or if the toolbox that I develop can be used by stakeholders who participate in these mangrove planting initiatives, they then can go back and monitor the growth rates which is a vital role of planting mangroves to make sure that they survive and the benefits will trickle down to the communities and around the world as well,” Ms Nasalo said.

Ms Nasalo has also shared that she believes research done should be user-friendly and communities involved after implementation should take ownership of the project as they were beneficiaries of the study.

“My study will portray the importance of collaboration and climate action, directly contributing to the Sustainable Development Goal,” she added.

Ms Nasalo who is from Bukuya in Ba acknowledged the support of lecturers and tutors she has worked with to help her grow the passion she has for Climate Change and Climate Action.

“My lecturers like Professor Elisabeth Holland and Dr Viliamu Iese help students like me grow and learn how to apply the principles we learn in class to the world we are now fighting for,” Ms Nasalo said.

Ms Nasalo is encouraging young people looking to make a change in the area of environment, science and climate change to join USP and grow their passion to help save our communities, nation and region.

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