A son of Na Qase na Rokotuiloma of the Yavusa Nabulebulewa, Dr Eci Tekuru Naisele, raised his Vanua flag high, setting a milestone achievement by successfully defending his Doctor of Philosophy thesis. He is the first in his family and village to scale this height of academic achievement.
Never far from home and its challenges, Master Eci, as he is fondly called, focused his research on his beloved Qoma Island in Tailevu province, its transitioning environment in a time of climate change and the resilience of his people.
“I grew up in the village, and over the many years, I’ve seen the changes like eroding shorelines as the sea rises,” he said.
“But I’ve also seen the resilience of my people, surviving and rebuilding through devastating natural disasters like Hurricane Bibi, Cyclone Vaal and Loti, and rebuilding,” he added.
“I’ve also seen the decline in our traditional values and knowledge systems, and I equate this to our declining resilience.”
A typical example is the total abandonment of canoe sailing for adopting high-powered outboard engines that run on fossil fuels, polluting the waters of Qoma and adding to the climate problem.
In his thesis titled – “Climate Change and the Resilience of Traditional Fijian Practices Qoma Island, Tailevu province,” Dr Naisele focused on reclaiming and regrowing these traditional knowledge and value systems for the sake of people’s resilience.
He is currently pursuing the accreditation of Certificate 1 in Canoe Sailing (Chapter 7 of his thesis) – teaching the art – to ensure its mainstreaming into Fiji’s sailing education structure.
Dr Naisele is the Acting Registrar and Executive Academic Assistant of the Pacific Theological College.