Date released
09 February 2023

The ACIAR Pacific Agriculture Scholarships, Support and Climate Resilience Program (PASS-CR) aims to strengthen agricultural innovation systems in the Pacific by providing scholarships and academic support to postgraduate students in agriculture, forestry, and fisheries at the University of the South Pacific (USP) and Fiji National University (FNU).

One of the students benefiting from the PASS-CR program is Fijian national Miss Shivani Singh, who is pursuing her master degree in animal science at FNU.

‘Growing up, I realised there were not enough women around me in science. I decided to pursue science studies because I have always had an interest in science, and I hope it encourages more young women to do the same.

There are no barriers, no limits, to what women and girls can achieve.

Miss Shivani Singh
PASS-CR scholar, Fiji National University

A woman wearing a white lab coat and blue globes, filling a glass tube with water from a faucet.
Miss Singh working at the Fiji National University labs.
A woman and a man wearing white aprons and hair nets, with pigs hanging in the background.
Miss Singh conducting research in the field.

After obtaining her bachelor degree in veterinary science and animal husbandry, Miss Singh decided to pursue a master degree through the PASS-CR program.

‘I found out about the PASS-CR program through my peers who also applied for the scholarships. I applied to further my qualifications in research related to animal science, and the PASS-CR program seemed like the right way to go.

‘The PASS-CR program focuses on enhancing research capacity and knowledge of Pacific agriculture, forestry, and fisheries and higher learning at local Pacific tertiary institutes. It provides learning and networking opportunities,  enhances knowledge and skills, helps in career specialisation, and it is tailored to suit the needs of Pacific islanders,’ she added.

Miss Singh’s master's thesis examines antimicrobial resistance (AMR) through a One Health approach, with her research funded through the CSIRO under the ACIAR-supported project Enhancing the Management of antimicrobial resistance in Fiji.

‘AMR occurs when the over-exploitation of antibiotics leads to the development of resistant bacteria. This is an emerging threat worldwide. Fiji has been very active in AMR advocacy; however, there was no surveillance system to monitor AMR in livestock production.’

'My research is a base platform for AMR monitoring. Though my focus was on poultry, the project covers all livestock commodities in Fiji. I am currently working with the CSIRO, ACIAR and an FNU team on identifying AMR in dairy, pigs and other livestock,’ she added.

A woman in a white lab coat standing on a green lawn, with vegetation in the background.
Miss Singh at the Fiji National University campus.

Miss Singh said the unique aspect of the PASS-CR program is that it allowed her to have thesis supervisors from FNU and CSIRO.

‘It has been great receiving technical support from both FNU and CSIRO. These 2 organisations, with ACIAR support, have provided me with opportunities to collaborate with local and international stakeholders to learn new research methods and opportunities to attend international training and conferences to present my results, said Miss Singh.

‘The biggest highlights for my educational career have been presenting my research at the TropAg Conference in Brisbane in 2022, attending molecular microbiology training at the University of South Australia, Adelaide, and being the youngest student member of the National Antimicrobial Resistance Committee.’

PASS-CR Academic Support Program Coordinator from the University of the Sunshine Coast, Dr Linda Wess, said that success stories like Miss Singh’s inspire other young women and girls interested in pursuing a career in science.

The PASS-CR program is focused on developing a thriving agricultural research education system that can sustain the careers of Pacific researchers and promote best agricultural practices in the region over the long term. Shivani’s research will help Fiji boost its fight against AMR risks.

Dr Linda Wess
University of the Sunshine Coast

‘It is great to see that the PASS-CR program is a pathway for women to access higher education in agricultural science and food security systems. The PASS-CR program is committed to gender diversity and, under the 2022 cohort, 50% of the scholars were women,' said Dr Wess.

ACIAR Regional Manager for the Pacific, Ms Mai Alagcan, added that ACIAR is proud to support the PASS-CR program as it creates greater opportunities and access for young women in the Pacific to pursue a career in agriculture science and research.

'The PASS-CR program empowers Pacific communities to build their research capacity to meet emerging agricultural challenges in the region. We are proud to support the academic journey of women like Shivani,’ added Ms Alagcan.

Three women and one man with arms around each other, smiling at the camera.
PASS-CR scholars at Fiji University

Miss Singh said her future plans include pursuing her Doctor of Philosophy in the environmental science field and expanding her research from veterinary to microbiology and environmental studies.

My advice to other young women and girls is don't shy away from pursuing science. Women are leading ground-breaking research across the world - the world needs science, and science needs more women and girls involved.

Miss Shivani Singh
PASS-CR scholar, Fiji National University

Learn more about the PASS-CR program.