Suva, Fiji – Forty Pacific Island natural resource managers gathered in Townsville, Australia this week to build their capacity for local and global environmental management through the in-depth study of sampling tools, data analysis and interpretation skills.
The exercise was part of the inaugural Pacific Ridge to Reef (R2R) post graduate programme, which is being delivered by the Pacific Community (SPC) and James Cook University (JCU), with funding support from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) through the Pacific Ridge to Reef Programme.
Participants from 13 Pacific Island Countries and Territories wrapped up a face-to-face teaching week in Townsville for the R2R Tools unit, the third of four units of the post graduate certificate in Ridge to Reef Sustainable Development.
SPC Geoscience Energy and Maritime Director and GEF/UNDP/SPC Pacific Regional R2R Acting Project Manager, Dr. Andrew Jones emphasised: “Working with practitioners from the Pacific and our partners at JCU, we can strengthen the conservation efforts of our region, enhance the opportunities and resilience of Pacific people and support innovative scientific and technical solutions to some of our greatest challenges.”
The programme is designed not only to build technical capacity, but also to foster a knowledge sharing network of R2R practitioners and stakeholders across the region and around the world. Through this network local knowledge and experience can be elevated and shared, providing invaluable insights into practical and effective methods for managing natural resources.
The partnership with James Cook University is a significant milestone in programme implementation focusing on building regional human capacity in Ridge to Reef Sustainable Development.
Dr Janine Sheaves explained: “The close inter-connections between land, water and coast systems in Pacific Islands make a pronounced case for integrated and coordinated planning and management of natural resources. The JCU-accredited post graduate programme is designed so that project outputs form part of the course assessment, ensuring that the training programme is relevant to local needs and that project outputs are technically and scientifically robust.”
Students will gain skills and expertise in the following areas:
- Ecosystem dynamics: Understanding the connectivity between terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems;
- Project management: Work plans, budget;
- Governance frameworks: Public policy and legislative processes;
- R2R tools: spatial planning, socio-economic assessments.
The courses are being delivered largely through distance self-learning with face-to-face instruction provided in conjunction with the Regional Programme Steering Committee meetings of the GEF R2R Programme each year. The certificate programme was launched in Tonga last year, and is scheduled to be completed in 2019 with participants taking one unit of study a semester supporting their full time R2R-related work.
The programme builds on the success of a similar initiative, the GEF-funded Pacific Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) project that ran between 2010- 2012 and saw 18 of 22 students graduate with internationally recognised qualifications in IWRM, with several continuing on to complete Masters Degrees and return to support their national development.
Participating countries in the R2R post graduate programme include: Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia , Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Marshal Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.