Luvunakoro Prepares for a Change of Guard at Top Forestry Operations Job
Starting his career off with the then Department of Forestry in 1990, Manasa Luvunakoro set his sights on the top operations job. 32 years later, he achieved this by being the Executive Director Operations and Services (EDOS) before retiring in April 2022. This week, we highlight his career with the Ministry of Forestry.
Briefly tell us about yourself?
My name is Manasa Luvunakoro and I’m from the village of Kabariki, in the district of Nabukelevu in the province of Kadavu.
I received my primary and some of my secondary school education in Kadavu but completed the latter at Indian College (now Jai Narayan College).
I joined the Forestry Training Centre in Lololo as a student in 1987 doing a 3-year Forest Technician Certificate Training and graduated in 1989. Immediately after graduating, I joined the Forestry Training Centre as an Instructor in January 1990.
Over half of my years of service in the Ministry were spent at the Forestry Training Centre from Lololo to Colo-i-Suva where I was taught and was mentored by some talented Foresters including the late Mr Etuate Basaga, Mr Timoci Vakawiriwiri, Mr Peniasi Naisau, Mr Kameli Vueta and Mr Ulaiasi Druma to name a few as I progressed through the ranks to become the Head of the Training and Education Division.
In 2017, I was posted to the Timber Utilisation and Research Division (TURD) in Nasinu for a year to head the division before returning to the Training Division.
In 2019, I was posted to the Ministry Head Quarters in Toorak as the Deputy Conservator of Forest looking after Operations and Service and from then until today, I have held the post of Executive Director Operations and Services (EDOS).
Why did you choose a career in Forestry?
While at school, my mind was made up that I did not want any full-time office work, so when I saw the advertisement for Forest Technician Training in 1986, I knew this was an opportunity not to be missed. I applied and attended the interview and received my acceptance letter a week before the start of the training in Lautoka. Since joining the Forestry Training Centre, I concluded that Forestry is my career and I will continue to serve in the Ministry until my retirement.
I was looking to start a meaningful career so forestry was an excellent choice. Not only is it good for your mental and physical health, but it’s a profession that is in demand and projected to grow. It is one of the best decisions that I made and I have no regrets.
What would be some of your career highlights?
I’ve have had some interesting times in the Ministry and enjoyed every moment of it. There are of course challenges along the way but the support from the staff and encouragement from my family kept me progressing to where I am today. Since joining the Forestry Training Centre in 1990, I set a goal to become the Head of the Training and Education division. Through the years, I continue to build the energy and set the direction to achieve my ambition of being the head of operations and services for the Ministry.
There are many other career highlights during my time with the Ministry but one of the most memorable ones for me was being awarded the Ministry’s Manager of the Year in 2015 and also leading the Training and Education Division in 2016 to be the Best Performing Division.
Through the Ministry, I have travelled to many overseas destinations during my 32 years of service for workshops and meetings, places that you we would normally dreamed of going to. I’ve accompanied the late former Minister for Forestry Hon Osea Naiqamu on a few overseas meetings and in one of those meetings, we managed to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Ministry of Environment and Forestry of the Republic of Indonesia for cooperation in the field of Forestry. One of the first outcomes of the MoU was the Wood Carving Training conducted in Nadi by an expert from Indonesia.
What is one concept of Forestry that is practiced
overseas that you would like to see adopted within the Ministry/Fiji?
I was fortunate to attend a training in Hanoi, Vietnam where the issue on Payment for Forest Environmental services (PFES) was also discussed. PFES is drawn from the concept of Payment for Environmental or Ecosystem Services (PES). The goals for PFES in Vietnam are to improve forest quality and quantity, increase the forest sector contribution to the national economy, reduce the state’s financial burden for forest protection and management, and improve social wellbeing
The basic idea of PES is to create incentives for individuals and communities to protect environmental services by compensating them for the cost incurred in managing and providing those services. Ecosystem services can be defined as the benefits we derive from the natural environment. These can be broken into Provisioning services – includes the supply of food, timber and water, Regulating services – the regulation of air quality, climate and flood risk and Cultural services - opportunities for recreation, tourism and education.
Establishing a PFES scheme involves a range of activities, many of which will require specialist knowledge and expertise. Several mechanisms for PFES are available and we need to explore the best that will work for us.
Advice to anyone considering a career in forestry?
Entering and completing a forestry career can be the most rewarding thing a person can do in one's lifetime. The benefits of working outside, exerting your body, and protecting a resource that’s invaluable to life on earth is an extremely rewarding and honourable career to choose.
As a forester, you must be flexible to change which will include dealing with shifting forest management priorities, influencing popular political, environmental, and energy policies plus understanding climate change concerns while utilizing forests for multiple uses.
By pursuing a career in forestry, you contribute and play an integral role in protecting our planet’s biodiversity and ensuring food security and resources for future generations.
“Forestry is not about trees; it is about people. And it is about trees only insofar as trees can serve the needs of people” Jack Westoby 1967