Graduates Hopes to Combat Food Insecurity

“Even if the research result eludes me, the process of exploring and trying to mitigate agricultural problems is a remarkably rewarding journey."
21 Oct 2022 17:00
Graduates Hopes to Combat Food Insecurity
Shameel Shah graduated with a Master of Science in Agriculture and Forestry Science from the Kagoshima University in Japan.

Knowing that the Pacific has the potential and resources to combat food insecurity, Shameel Shah was determined to graduate from the Kagoshima University in Japan to give back to his people.

He says he is ready to apply the knowledge he learnt after graduating with a Master of Science in Agriculture and Forestry Sciences from the Graduate School of Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries and Natural Resources.

He left Fiji in 2019 after receiving the Japanese Government (MEXT) scholarship to study at the Kagoshima University.

And despite the language barrier, he strived to complete his studies.


“Communication outside of the university campus was one of the biggest challenges, but within the first year it became easier when I made new friends and started to socialise within my community using the Japanese language skills acquired from the University International Programme,” Mr Shah said.

“Molecular work was also very difficult especially, when you are from the Pacific Islands where cutting edge technology is not available.

“But my professors were very helpful and kind, teaching me the methodologies and science behind what we cannot observe visually, and whenever I made mistakes during the experimental and publication phase.”

He said the COVID-19 pandemic also slowed their research activity and stu- dents and professors had to alter their day to day lab and field activities.



At Kagoshima University, his research was based on gram-negative bacterial plant pathogens (Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzae) (Xoo) which is a pathovar that is a causal agent of bacterial leaf blight disease in rice related species and has the potential to cause 50 per cent to 70 per cent of yield loss.

“The most exciting journey in my MSc was when through my research three new genes were discovered on chromosomes 2, 5 and 10 and I got to name them,” he said.

“This genes will help to facilitate understanding of genetic blueprints and morphological fundamentals in research programmes that are more durable against evolving Xoo pathogens and in an uncertain climatic temperature.”


The proud Navua born lad said that while completing his Bachelor of Agriculture Science in Applied Sciences in Samoa, at the University of the South Pacific, Alafua Campus he observed that the Pacific nations had the potential and resources to combat food insecurities.

And also allow consistent supply of nutritious food which can ultimately reduce Non Communicable Diseases and methodologies of cultivating food in a sustainable way to reduce and adapt to climate crisis.

“This notion gave me an insight to skew my devotion towards research and innovation as most students do not tap deeper to solving the real life problems at farm level.”


Mr Shah later worked as a farm advisory Officer for an European Union funded project where farmers constantly had to deal with changing weather patterns and incur production loss.

After the project ended he started working for Biosecurity Authority of Fiji (BAF) while continuing his Post graduate studies in Animal Science.

“Pacific Island countries are constantly battling food insecurities, novel pathogen infections, and continuing non communicable diseases due to lack of constant nutritious food supply.


“The lack of research skills and the knowledge has always been a drawback in the Pacific to fully understand the full context of research even though the Pacific Islands are considered the hotspot of different research opportunities.

“In fact, the rarity of successes in research problems makes them so alluring which motivates me with an unwavering determination and vehemence in the research field.

“Even if the research result eludes me, the process of exploring and trying to mitigate agricultural problems is a remarkably rewarding journey.



“My parents and friends who used to guide me and help me until 3 am in the lab and professors who always supported me and motivated me when my research did not go according to plan,” he said.

He said his father who was a retired Maths and Physics school teacher helped him and inspired him to keep trying when his experiments failed or statistical results were not favourable.

Mr Shah also thanked his employer Biosecurity Authority of Fiji (BAF) for providing him three years of study leave to attain his goals.



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