Climate change initiatives and activities in Vanuatu
The word ‘climate change’ (CC) is now becoming a well-known phrase throughout our communities today, and it has also gained a lot of attention from the national government with regards to the coordination and implementation of real on-ground projects benefiting ni-Vanuatu people.
In this regard, a lot of work has been done to address CC in Vanuatu, much aimed at building the capacity of our citizens to be prepared and ready to adapt to the effects of climate variability now and negative climate change into future.
Recently the government of Vanuatu has taken a major step forward by recognizing the similarities between and integrating climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction (DRR), making our nation a role model in the Pacific.
One significant achievement is the formation of Vanuatu’s National Advisory Board on Climate Change & Disaster Risk reduction (NAB) as of October 2012, which sits within Vanuatu Meteorology and Geo-hazards Department (VMGD). NAB is co-chaired by the Directors of VMGD and the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO). The newly formed Program Management Unit (PMU) is the secretariat to the NAB and it implements NAB’s decisions.
NAB was purposely established to act as Vanuatu’s supreme policy making and advisory body for all CC and DRR programs, projects and engage with provincial authorities to undertake policy consultations and to carry out communication, stakeholder and climate finance mapping activities. This development has helped to demonstrate how the government is addressing climate change and to see a consolidation of stakeholders’ effort with the objectives of increasing impact and efficiency in CCA (climate change adaptation) and DRR interventions.
VMGD and the NAB-PMU are playing a valuable role in coordinating the climate change work being undertaken in Vanuatu. Over the past decade, many different organisations, government departments and donors have been running climate change projects in Vanuatu. In previous years, it has been difficult for anyone to know what climate projects were happening where, and to work out which regions of Vanuatu were not receiving project assistance. This meant some areas had three or four organisations trying to run projects in their communities, and others in need had no assistance at all.
The VMGD and NAB-PMU have set up coordination mechanisms to help show the full range of activities occurring in Vanuatu, to help plan better and make sure vulnerable communities are being reached. This includes; The quarterly newsletter from VMGD about climate, climate change, geo-hazard and disaster activities which shows where activities are being undertaken, the “Project map” available on the NAB website (www.nab.vu) which gives a visual map of project activities underway in Vanuatu right now, the “Events calendar” available on the NAB website (www.nab.vu) which lists upcoming workshops, training, conferences and meetings, a weekly email alert that goes out to everyone on the ‘CC/DRR email list’ showing trips being made to communities that week, to help organisations collaborate and plan and the NAB Project Endorsement process, which will require all climate change and DRR projects to be registered, to help map where projects are occurring and assist in choosing project sites.
The NAB-PMU’s coordination role also involves regular meetings, including the monthly CC/DRR Working Group which has proved useful in helping agencies work together, to provide more effective services to the country. In the last two months alone, from the discussions held at the CC/DRR Working Group meetings, Save the Children and the NAB-PMU have agreed to jointly hold a workshop to finalise important messages on climate change and disaster risk reduction for use in schools and communities; and Croix-Rouge (Red Cross) and the Vanuatu Humanitarian Team (VHT) agreed to discuss upcoming disaster simulation exercises to reduce duplication or perhaps reinforce each other. These meetings provide an opportunity for groups to coordinate their efforts.
As a leading government department in driving climate change activities in Vanuatu, VMGD through its partnerships and coordination initiatives is producing numerous information materials to help climate change project staff in their work which includes; a quarterly newsletter from the Forecast section about meteorology, monthly and seasonal forecasts to help farmers and communities prepare for weather conditions, Agro-meteorology bulletins to link forecasts with the impact on crops, fruit and gardens, and to help farmers in finding more resilient techniques and a quarterly newsletter from VMGD about climate, climate change, geo-hazard and disaster activities.
The NAB portal (www.nab.vu) has comprehensive information about climate change projects, also houses a resources database where information and awareness materials is publically accessible. The portal has a news feed which provides news, tools and activities on workshops for those working in ni-Vanuatu communities.
VMGD through its partnership and coordination activities has produced 73 different information products, including range of brochures, posters, forecasts, displays, presentations to schools, awareness events, DVDs, website materials and others, to raise knowledge in students, the public, and project staff about meteorological, climate, and climate change topics.
Consultations with every province were started in April 2013 to help develop more targeted and useful information materials. Consultations have been completed in Sanma, Malampa and Penama, and will be undertaken in Torba, Tafea and Shefa in June.
Under the current NAB-PMU implemented projects, there are two World Bank Funded activities on the ground for years 2013 to 2018. These projects include activities such as; Community workshops on Climate Change adaptation and disaster risk reduction, Strengthening the Department of Agriculture by providing trucks, motorbikes, boats and nursery materials, supporting the Vanuatu Agriculture and Rural Training Centre (VARTC) in rebuilding of roads, upgrade houses, upgrade laboratory, office equipment, nursery materials and labourers, multiplication of food plants that are resilient to climate change and distribution of the plants to farmers around Vanuatu, purchasing and installation of more than 400 rain water tanks and rain water catchment shelters, train communities on plumbing, facilitate communities to formulate community adaptation and disaster preparedness plans, allocate small grants for communities to access to implement activities in their plans, building of a NDMO/VMGD building in Tafea Province and Torba, risk mapping exercises in Port Vila and Luganville, establishment of a Tsunami warning system in Port Vila and Luganville.
The National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) is the government agency task under the National Disaster Act to coordinate responses to any emergencies and disasters and this include the impact of climate change. Actual movement or evacuation of people affected by coastal erosion or flooding is be coordinated by the NDMO. This coordination work can be done before, during and after an event had taken place.
NDMO is currently strengthening and mainstreaming policy that is spreading across national, provincial and community levels through the DRR & CCA programs and activities. They are implementing disaster risk management and climate change adaptation programs and activities in four main areas; Coordinating responses to emergencies/disaster and climate change; Strengthening disaster and climate change networks; Mainstreaming disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation and Capacity building at national, provincial and community levels.
The aim of setting up the network is to have ready and available people and agencies who can work together in DRR and CC adaptation programs and activities. These same agencies can also come together when responding to any disasters. The NDMO and other humanitarian actors in Vanuatu established the Vanuatu Humanitarian Team (VHT) network at the national level. The VHT is made up of international and local NGOs UN agencies and supported by line government agencies and development partners.
In 2012 Torba, Tafea and Shefa PDCCCs were established. NDMO is and are now in the process of setting up the Sanma, Penama and Malampa PDCCCs.. The PDCCC consist of the Secretary Generals, line government agencies and any other humanitarian actors present in the provinces. The PDCCC will work together with the NDMO to coordinate any responses in the provinces.
The NDMO is also working together and supporting VHT members to set up Community Disaster and Climate Change Committees (CDCCC) in communities throughout Vanuatu. As well as setting up the CDCCC, other activities include training, assisting to put together disaster and climate change plans, running simulation exercises and equipping the CDDCCC with tools and equipment such as HF radios and other appropriate equipment that they could use.
Mainstreaming DRR and CCA is currently done across all line government ministries and departments and also down to provinces and communities. Each government ministries must include DRR and CCA in their policies and budget. This same concept applies to Provincial Governments and communities programs and activities.
This is an activity that comes through a lot of workshops and awareness that is currently being done by many institutions including the NAB, VMDG, NDMO and VHT members throughout Vanuatu. People must be made aware of what is happening around us and prepare for this. Vanuatu is prone to all natural hazards including climate change impacts. Therefore we must understand and make disaster and climate change programs and activities as every bodies business.
But is not just the government that is doing real community-level climate change projects. The climate change adaptation successes at Pele Island under the Pacific-German Regional Programme on Coping with Climate Change in the Pacific Island Region is another big effort towards strengthening the capacities of our communities to cope with the impacts of climate change. Under this programme, GIZ is assisting small communities on Pele Island to cope with the adverse effects of climate change through the following activities; livestock husbandry improvement, coastal and catchment erosion, invasive species control, water protection and soil fertility, food preservation and disaster risk reduction, honey bee husbandry for income and food security and fish aggregating devices for food security. These adaptation activities are already showing that the island communities can better cope with the changes of climate now and into the future.