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Community voices drive climate choices

23 May 2022, Impact of Our Work

Pacific Islanders speak out about living on the frontlines of the climate crisis

The water is rising in the Pacific - and so are community voices.

Mary lives in an incredibly remote village in the Solomon Islands. She knows climate change has already arrived on her island, and she’s keen to have her voice heard. We asked Mary to tell us how climate change is impacting her life.

The mother of five uses her traditional dugout canoe to catch fish for her children to eat, but the produce she grows in her garden is essential to her family’s food security. Mary describes how an increase in rain is ruining her crops.


Mary struggles to grow food for her children to eat
due to the impacts of climate change on her small village in the Solomon Islands.
Photo: Collin Leafasia/Save the Children 

“…The irregular weather pattern has caused a reduction in food crop harvest in my garden. The vegetables grow well when we plant them, but then insects and rain damage the crops before harvest,” she says. 

Mary has also noticed changes to the beach skirting her village. “Now the sea level is very high too. Our sea shore has eroded. Where we used to have our boat sheds and canoe house is now covered by the sea.” 

Mary says even her children feel the effects of climate change, and it’s impacting their ability to learn. “My children and the other children in the village walk to the next village to attend primary school. They must cross two rivers to get to school,” she says. “When it rains, they don’t go to school because the rivers are flooded and make it impossible to cross.”


An increase in rain is making it difficult for the children from Mary’s village to attend school.
Photo: Collin Leafasia/Save the Children

Capturing community voices

We’ve spoken to over five thousand Solomon Islanders like Mary to better understand local perspectives on the changing climate. Over three weeks, our local team travelled to 66 villages to ask people how they’re coping with the changes that can no longer be avoided, and what help is needed to safeguard their futures.

With the support of QBE and the IKEA Foundation, Save the Children is using what we learnt to design a project that strengthens community resilience to climate change in the Solomon Islands. It will be built on these firsthand accounts from community members living on the frontline of the climate crisis. 

But our team isn’t stopping in the Solomon Islands. A year and a half ago, we travelled to the furthest reaches of Vanuatu - the country most at risk to climate-induced disasters in the world - to listen to community members.


One of our data collectors travelling to Sasavele village in the Solomon Islands
to hear community perspectiveson climate change.
Photo: Collin Leafasia/Save the Children

We met Chief Tavet Varao, who knew exactly how his remote village in Vanuatu was being impacted.

“Effects from climate change that impact our communities include stronger hurricanes and periods of drought,” he said, glancing at the sky. “Sometimes we have strong rains and flash floods, which can destroy our gardens,” he added, echoing his Pacific neighbour, Mary.  

Launching the Pacific’s largest community-based climate project

As a result of the research, this month we’re launching the largest community-based climate resilience project the Pacific has ever seen. The project will be implemented in Vanuatu by local government and community organisations with support from Save the Children. It will directly reach over 90,000 women, men, young people, and children in all six provinces of Vanuatu directly helping community members to address the impacts of climate change already on their doorstep – and those still to come.

Listen to Chief Tavet speak about the impact of climate change on his village in this short video:

Critically, the project will reach nearly half of the country’s rural population, helping them restore and protect their natural environment and learn climate resilient agriculture and fishing techniques. We’ll also be empowering women to start small eco-businesses, preserving and selling the surplus produce from their gardens to help combat food and income insecurity. 

The Vanuatu Community-based Climate Resilience Project will help community members build food security,
protect their natural environment, and safeguard their children’s future.
Photo: Collin Leafasia/Save the Children

Community voices drive change

Save the Children is working closely with communities in the Pacific and right around the world to help them adapt to climate change and protect their children, who will be burdened by the most dangerous impacts of the climate crisis. 

We thank thousands of people like Mary and Chief Tavet for raising their voices. Their stories and recommendations will help improve food security for families, protect natural environments and keep Pasifika children safe, today and tomorrow.

            

The Vanuatu Community-based Climate Resilience Project project is principally financed by the Green Climate Fund with support from the Australian Government and the Government of Vanuatu.

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