Land use a ‘challenge for iTaukei’ – Ratuva

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Professor Steve Ratuva in Suva on Wednesday, May 24, 2023. Picture: JONACANI LALAKOBAU

Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna would be “disappointed” that the Native Land Trust Board (iTaukei Land Trust Board) has failed indigenous landowners realise the full potential of their land.

University of Canterbury pro-vice chancellor Professor Steven Ratuva made the claim during a public lecture on the iconic iTaukei statesman at the University of the South Pacific on Wednesday.

He said Ratu Sukuna played a key role in establishing the Native Land Trust Board (now iTaukei Land Trust Board) to protect indigenous landowning rights but would “probably be a bit disappointed” to see that the TLTB has not been reformed.

“When he put together the NLTB in 1940, it was on the assumption that at some point, it was going to be temporary,” Prof Ratuva said.

“At some point, he was going to go through another reform to meet up to the challenges of the time. And one of the biggest challenges for the iTaukei landowners now is to deal with how to use the land and how to generate income from the land.

“How to make sure that the resources in the land are fully utilised. Something which TLTB has never done.”

The Fijian academic also recalled meeting the general manager of the TLTB some years back and suggesting the organisation set up a land innovation unit to specifically look at ways in which land use within the Fijian community could be innovative.

“A lot of the land is unused. And a lot of iTaukei farmers don’t have the skills to be able to transform the land or they’ve been told by government after government for years, just use your land.

“They won’t be able to unless you provide, you facilitate that process in terms of structure of land use for instance.

“I remember writing some time ago, that what they can do is to have mobile agricultural innovation units going from village to village, all over the place. And then visiting, teaching them land innovation from different levels. And then of course create the market later.

“So Ratu Sukuna would have been thinking that way as a reformist — thinking of marketisation of land to the extent that you don’t lose the land and being able to be part of a bigger global economy. But not much has happened. It is probably something the new Government can look into, reforming the TLTB.”

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