Published on 26th September 2017
The NGOs describe the Pacific as “a canary in the coal mine” for the rest of the planet. “In our work with vulnerable communities, particularly in the Pacific, we are already seeing the negative impacts of more extreme weather events, temperature changes, rising sea levels and disease outbreaks associated with climate change.”
At the time of going to print with Vista (before the Election), Labour Party, the Green Party and the Maori Party all supported the idea in principle. VSA remains committed to working with our partners to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change as a core part of our work, but we also have several volunteers working specifically in this area.
Climate Change Adaption Project Adviser, Bougainville
Curtis Williams is volunteering as a Climate Change Adaption Project Adviser with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) Mission in Papua New Guinea, based in Bougainville. He writes about his work.
Bougainville is exposed to a range of natural hazards such as cyclones, floods, landslides, droughts, tsunamis and king tides. Climate change is expected to further exacerbate the risk of natural hazards by increasing the frequency and severity of these events In Bougainville, the atoll regions are at risk mainly because of their low lying feature and their remoteness to the mainland. The Carteret Islands, for example, sit only 1.5 metres above sea level. Frequent storm surges wash away homes and erode the shoreline. The constant inundation of salt water increases the salinity in the soil that reduces the island’s ability to grow food.
The first action is to educate communities on climate change and how it contributes to adverse weather patterns. Knowledge of the potential impact of future climate events assists communities better prepare for disasters. Also, empowering communities to see disasters as events that can be managed and not just as acts of God helps build resilience.
Enhancing the community’s capacities towards self-reliance and self-sufficiency in managing disasters can reduce the financial, economic and social burden placed on the State, and also encourages people to change their behavioural patterns and be aware of risks.
My current role is helping to do this. I am working with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and various government stakeholders to develop a medium to long term Disaster Risk Management strategy to make Bougainvilleans more resilient to disasters. This includes the rollout of community based disaster risk management projects, where the community identifies disaster risks and use local knowledge and materials to mitigate the effects. This includes the building of seawalls made from clamshells, replanting of mangroves to help protect shorelines and support fisheries, and building drought resistant keyhole gardens to assist with food security.
Mainstreaming climate change and development issues into policy and practice requires strong holistic stakeholder engagement. Sharing the responsibility between all stakeholders increases the buy in into the climate change discourse and also gives communities the support and mechanisms to strengthen their own food security.
Land Management Systems, Kiribati
Emma O'Neill is volunteering as a Land Management Systems Adviser with the Ministry of Environment Lands and Agriculture Development (MELAD) in Kiribati. Her partner, Aaron Hick, is also volunteering as a Land Surveyor Trainer with MELAD. The effects of climate change in Kiribati are already very real – like the Bougainville atolls, Kiribati is extremely low-lying, has experienced severe erosion and salt water inundation of the fresh water table.
In July, Aaron and I arranged to do a mangrove planting with MELAD's Environment and Conservative Division. We worked together with Australian volunteers also living in Kiribati and volunteers from Kiribati Red Cross and planted over 1000 mangroves. The mangroves will help to protect the coastline from erosion, improve water quality and provide a habitat for fish.
There are several ways to support our work:
1. Registering your interest with VSA means that we will email you when we have volunteer assignments in your field of expertise, to register yourself click here.
2. Support our work, donate now to show your support for the many generous kiwis who share their time and skills to help people and communities across the Pacific, creating a better future for all. To donate click here.
3. Sign up for VSA's newsletter 'Talk Talk' and spread our work with your friends and family. To sign up click here.