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US Climate Fellow to Boost Sustainable Forests Management

Discussions between the Government of the United States of America and the Fijian Government through the Ministry of Forestry for an in-country USG Climate Fellow came to fruition in March 2021, when Dr. Randy Hamilton arrived in Fiji.  

Despite the high stakes of moving across the world amidst the COVID-19 global pandemic, Dr. Hamilton made it into the country where he is scheduled to stay for two years as part of the USG Climate Fellows program. The program is for technical cooperation that promotes sustainable landscapes through targeted technical assistance towards selected developing country partners. 

“I am grateful for the very warm welcome I have received in Fiji and it is truly an honour and a privilege to work with the Ministry of Forestry to support their important efforts to combat climate change,” said Dr. Hamilton 

Under the 2019 Pacific Pledge of the Indo-Pacific strategy, the U.S. Government committed over $100 million in new assistance to the Pacific region. The United States recognises that addressing environmental degradation and climate change is a priority in the Pacific and has allocated part of the Pacific Pledge funding to provide support for disaster resilience and to address environmental challenges in the Pacific region. The USG Climate Fellows program is part of this commitment. 

As the in-country USG Climate Fellow to Fiji, Dr. Hamilton will work with the Ministry of Forestry’s Forest Resource Assessment and Conservation (FRAC) Division to fill significant knowledge gaps in carbon monitoring, reporting and verification methodologies, Good Practice Guidance for Land-Use, Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Uses (AFOLU) reporting and payments for ecosystems services. He will also assist with land-cover and ecosystem monitoring, forest inventory assessment, the development of data management systems and other geospatial analysis tools. 

Permanent Secretary for Forestry, Pene Baleinabuli, said “Dr. Hamilton’s contributions will greatly assist with Fiji’s long-held vision and aspiration to sustainably develop and manage its forests resources, especially with regards to land-use options and carbon sequestration in various land-use systems”.

He said Fiji has been losing an average of 4,000 hectares of forests per year, and while Government has initiated a national tree-planting campaign to plant 30 million trees in 15 years – a movement which has caught on exceptionally well with the communities and key stakeholders in the forestry sector who have collectively helped plant over six million trees since 2019 when His Excellency the President Major-General (Ret’d) Jioji Konrote launched the initiative,  it was crucial to explore further options to strengthen Fiji’s capacity and capabilities in managing its forests.

“The 30 million trees campaign is one of Fiji’s major strategies to address climate change, which is even more critical now as part of Fiji’s green recovery following the exacerbations caused by COVID-19.”

“There is an even greater and urgent need to press the re-set button and explore more options with development partners to enable Fiji to continue to do its part in addressing climate change, enhance biodiversity and ecosystem services, and manage the impacts of COVID-19, whilst also ensuring that its natural resources are sustainably harnessed to contribute to Fiji’s socio-economic development needs,” Mr. Baleinabuli said.

“It is based on this broad overarching goal that the Ministry of Forestry, on behalf of the Fijian Government, wishes to acknowledge the support of the United States Government through the US Forest Service,” he said.

Dr. Hamilton and the USG Climate Fellows program will also enable Fiji to progress its efforts towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Decade of Action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. This agenda is considered to be the most comprehensive blue print to eliminate extreme poverty, reduce inequality and to protect the planet from climate change.


Before moving to Fiji, Dr. Randy Hamilton worked as a Climate Change Advisor to the government of Costa Rica with funding through the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, in conjunction with the U.S. Forest Service Office of International Programs. Since 2015, he has provided remote sensing/geospatial technical assistance to the country’s REDD+ initiative. He worked closely with Costa Rican government officials, universities, and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization to support the design of Costa Rica's National Land Use, Land Cover, and Ecosystems Monitoring System. This all-lands monitoring system, which integrates field and remote sensing data, will enable the country to consistently track national landscape changes for the first time in history. Prior to accepting this position, Dr. Hamilton worked for 11 years as a Remote Sensing Specialist for RedCastle Resources as a contractor for the U.S. Forest Service, Remote Sensing Applications Center (RSAC) in Utah, USA.

Discussions for a USG Climate Fellow was initiated by the Minister for Forestry Honourable Osea Naiqamu when he led a Fijian delegation to present Fiji’s carbon trading proposal to the World Bank at Washington DC in July 2019. Minister Naiqamu met with the United States Forest Service executives who have since helped secure Dr. Hamilton’s services.

For more information email: forestrycomms@gmail.com or call 9904893 | 8960865

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