Growing up in Nawaka village in Nadi, Miriama Qoro always thought that she would eventually become a nurse or even a doctor. However, with her interest in the natural environment she would eventually enrol at the University of the South Pacific for the Bachelor of Science degree program.
Fast forward three years later. Following her graduation, Miriama found a vacancy advertisement in the newspaper for Conservation Officers at the i-Taukei Affairs Board while she was a volunteer for the Fijian Department of Environment in the western division. Having initially applied for the Kadavu province position it would however be awhile before she was called back to interview for her current role.
“Within a month of receiving my letter of appointment, I was on a bus to the other side of the main island to begin my posting as the new Conservation Officer for the province of Ra. Armed with my understanding of the cultural terrain and volunteer experience as a university graduate, my initial thoughts were that I would mainly work with traditional leaders like the Turaga ni Koro and Mata ni Tikina”, she said.
In 2011, the i-Taukei Affairs Boards established the Conservation Unit as a means to increase specialist manpower that would assist provincial councils, districts and villages with the sustainable management of their natural resources. The basis of the unit is drawn from Fiji’s Environmental Management Act 2005 that was enacted to address natural resource management, as well as waste management and pollution control.
Miriama says that since she began her job as a Conservation Officer in May 2013, she has visited almost every village in Ra Province, speaking with traditional leaders, women and youth groups on climate change and food security. She has been encouraging resource owners to reduce unnecessary burning, and providing environmental advice on the impact of gravel and black sand extraction, poaching and waste water management. These conversations at community level have helped improve natural resource management efforts by utilizing existing traditional communication frameworks for decision making.
She continued that “Being a part of the Provincial Integrated Coastal Management (ICM) project has been a highlight, where I was involved in coastal rehabilitation involving 27 acres of mangrove replanting for two districts. In my role I am also tasked with being the environmental focal point between Government departments and Non-Government Organisations that work within the province”.
Miriama adds that her vision for Ra province was to empower communities and traditional leaders as resource owners to make informed environmental decisions prioritizing resource management at village, district and provincial levels. The Conservation Officer unit is part of the i-Taukei Affairs Board which is an independent statutory body that regulates the affairs of indigenous Fijians who communally own 87 percent of land in Fiji.
Words by Dwain Qalovaki