Adapting to climate change: learning from our neighbours in Vanuatu

Recently I was lucky enough to attend a training course in methods of community adaptation to climate change, run by the Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development (PACE-SD). My 2 week trip to Vanuatu for this training was inspiring and taught me a lot of things about climate change. It’s amazing what we learned from one of the presenters, Dr Chris Bartlett from SPC-GTZ, about the wide range of different effects of climate change. After a week of classroom learning, we had a week in the field to visit community-based climate change adaptation projects and learn from them.

I was happy to see first-hand how they have setup a pilot project on the island of Pele which accommodates 4 villages (Piliura, Warasiviu, Launamoa and Worearu). The communities take full ownership of the project to make good use of the resources around them. For example, each village has their own MPA, the school has 2 composting toilets, Piliura village has a solar drying food compartment, and they even have a nursery in which they use Crown of Thorns starfish as manure! First they first collect the starfish, then ‘weather’ them to remove salt (either by burying or leaving exposed). Once properly dried the starfish are ground up and put in a composter, mixed with leaves, soil or organic matter and left to compost for 3-6 months with regular aeration and mixing. The village of Launamoa have a piggery, where cross breed the wild pigs and the normal ones and feed them with coconut and other food scraps. Pig waste is then collected and mixed with leaves or other organic matter to be used as manure for their sweet potato and vegetable gardens. I am quite sure that this can also be used in some communities we work in Fiji, with minimum help from government.

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As well as the excellent training, the 2 week trip was a chance to go back to my birthplace for the first time. The French influence was still very clear; I was surprised to see in most supermarkets how much food is imported and I wonder how do they offset these costs? However, the food was delicious especially the nice juicy steak!

Women find sustainable, alternative livelihoods in Fiji

Women find sustainable, alternative livelihoods in Fiji

Dried kuta stems ready for weaving in Nabalebale village, Cakaudrove Province, Fiji.

WCS Fiji has just received funding to develop sustainable, alternative sources of livelihood in Bua and Cakaudrove Provinces of Fiji. We were very excited to choose weaving round kuta mats as a central part of this project. Kuta is the water chestnut, Eleocharis dulcis. We feel that there is a need to take up the challenge on kuta weaving since traditional knowledge is slowly slipping away – this would be a significant loss to future generations who are ignorant of the value of this tradition. This project is a chance to revive these skills, preserve this knowledge and retain part of the identity for women from Bua and Cakaudrove who are renowned for their skills in kuta weaving. At the same time the project will create essential opportunities for women to generate additional income within their communities.

Kuta is a sedge, which resembles a tall, cylindrical grass, and inhabits lowlands and marshlands. The ‘chestnuts’ that give this marsh plant its name are not actually nuts, but the swollen underground stems that acts as a storage organ for the plant. In Bua and Cakaudrove, the stems are harvested, dried, and woven into soft sleeping mats, decorative round mats or traditional funeral waist mats (ta’ovala kuta) sold to Tongan people.

Unfortunately, viable habitats that support kuta are now under increasing threat from anthropogenic activities and climate change. The protection of wetlands and marshlands is important to ensure the survival of species like the water chestnut. Establishing kuta weaving cooperatives will give an economic value to these threatened wetland areas which are so important for biodiversity. This economic value will therefore give communities a concrete reason to preserve and manage these areas into the future.

With the help of Partners in Community Development Fiji (PCDF) and WWF one of our staff will be visiting  the districts of Wailevu East and West, Kubulau, Wainunu, Nadi and Solevu to collect information on kuta weaving. PCDF has already conducted training on kuta weaving in early 2011, when they taught some of the ladies in the district of Wailevu and Kubulau to weave round kuta mats. Cross-site visits and to share knowledge will be an important part of the project, since the weaving skills differ across the districts. It may be possible for villages to sell their kuta to weavers in other villages. We expect to have the first sales of kuta mats before the end of the year!

This project is kindly supported by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), a joint program of l’Agence Française de Développement, Conservation International, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the World Bank.

Climate change adaptation, Fiji-style

Here are the 3 parts of Fiji One’s ‘Close Up’ show, including an interview with WCS Fiji Director Dr Stacy Jupiter. The footage was shot earlier this month in the remote Daria village, Wainunu, when the communities launched their network of 7 terrestrial, freshwater and marine protected areas. Luckily the sun shone for the filming; a rare treat in the famously rainy Wainunu.

This new protected area network covers 52 km2, with 6km2 in 4 periodically harvested fisheries closures (tabu areas) and the remaining 46km2 in 3 upland protected areas; equivalent to 5% of the Wainunu traditional fisheries management area and 17% of the district lands. The marine protected areas focus on resilient reefs which have the best chance of ensuring future food security in the face of climate change.

 

Part 1

 

Part 2

 

Part 3

Give coral reefs a chance

It was a pleasure conducting the reef resilience “Training of Trainers” workshop in Suva in February. As a part of the outcomes of the training, and requests from participants, WCS Fiji has developed community-friendly posters on:

1. Spotting signs of stress on your reef

2. Considerations for a resilient marine protected area

Please get in touch through infofiji@wcs.org if you would like copies of these posters to help your community better manage their marine resources!

This project was kindly supported by grants from The Nature Conservancy and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (US Department of Commerce).

                                             

 

Fiji Youth Ministry takes up the environmental challenge

Children in Wailevu district, Cakaudrove, with mangrove seeds. Photo (c) Stacy Jupiter

Environmental issues will be at the heart of Fiji’s youth agenda – helping young people to address key environmental challenges. WCS Fiji attended a recent Ministry of Youth and Sport consultation workshop to inform strategies and plans for this new Ministry.

The workshop identified barriers and gaps affecting the engagement of young people and made recommendations for the Ministry, including:

  • Capacity building on youth engagement for traditional leaders (particularly Turaga ni Koro through i-Taukei Affairs)
  • Influence existing church and youth groups to tackle environmental challenges
  • Involve young people in monitoring their local environment
  • Incorporate climate change awareness/adaptation (in a Fijian context) into the national curriculum – empowering young people to participate in informed community debate and decision making processes
  • Showcase/promote good practice in youth engagement

We look forward to supporting the Ministry and young people in Fiji to make a better future for all.