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University students to study flood affected village in Fiji

University students to study flood affected village in Fiji

University of Auckland students are heading to Fiji this Sunday to study how a local community has adapted after three serious floods in a decade.

The trip is part of the university’s Development Studies programme, where Professor Andreas Neef is leading a three-year collaborative research project on climate change adaptation in flood-affected communities in Fiji and Cambodia.

The project will explore how rural communities living in flood-prone river basins respond to increasing incidences of floods.

Jeffrey Smith, 26, Alejandro Acosta Carrizosa, 30, and Sivendra Michael, 26, are travelling to the village of Votua located in the district of Ba (northwest side of Viti Levu, Fiji’s main island) as part of the Development Studies programme.

Once there the trio will homestay will local villagers and learn what techniques the population of about 650 people used to get through the floods and how they prepare themselves for future flood events.

The trip is a new experience for all of them, even for Sivendra, who is Fijian but studying towards MCom in Economics at the University. He used to live in Ba district but flooding in village of Namasau forced his family to move to the provincial capital Lautoka.

“The main purpose for us is to have some informal discussions and try and find out how they were affected by the floods and what have they done,” Sivendra says.

Alejandro is completing his MA in Development Studies but already has much experience in his home country of Colombia. There he worked on a project with mining communities and helped establishing an eco-hotel venture that is operated by a local community.

But he knows he will learn a lot when he visits Fiji for the first time on this trip.

“It will be more enlightening for me than for them in some cases. We don’t know what to expect,” Alejandro says.

And BA (Hons) student Jeffrey is from Auckland but has worked extensively with Bahá'í communities, firstly in Vanuatu for six months, then in Jamaica for two and a half years.

“It was very much about integrating into the life of the local community and having to really work with the youth and adults and taking them through training which built their capabilities to run activities for children and youth in their communities.”

Jeffrey is now continuing his work with Pasifika communities in Clendon, South Auckland.

The trio leave for Fiji this weekend for their three-week visit which includes working alongside researchers from the University of Sydney, the University of Western Australia and the University of the South Pacific in Suva.


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