TABWEMASANA Risej Projek – Research Project

The Tabwemasana Research Project was conducted from 2010-2011 in the Republic of Vanuatu on
the island of Espiritu Santo (Santo) which is the largest in the nation’s archipelago of 83 islands. The
study derived its name (with permission from the local Chiefs) from the highest mountain in
Vanuatu, Mt Tabwemasana, located on the island of Espiritu Santo. The total population of Vanuatu
is 243,304 and Santo is 34,388 (VNSOa 2009). The nation’s population is largely constituted of young
people with 41% of the population 0 - 15 years of age (MICS 2007). The study was funded and
supported by an Australian Government Endeavour Research Fellowship Award and conducted in
partnership with Vanuatu Earth Care Association (VECA) and the University of the South Pacific
(Luganville campus) after attaining a research permit from the Government of Vanuatu. The project
had the endorsement and involvement of the local Chiefs and Councillors. It was conducted on
behalf of the community for Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu, who actively conserve healthy and sustainable
social, cultural, economic and environmental systems.
 

The social impact of climate change was of special interest in this research in terms of capturing
community observations. The Vanuatu archipelago and its inhabitants are considered to be on the
front line in experiencing the effects of climate change. Rising sea level and intensified extreme
events such as: flooding, landslides, erosion, droughts and tropical cyclones are examples of
environmental changes occurring across the region (VG 2007). Some of these occurrences may be
attributable to natural climatic cycles however the evidence points towards contributing influences
of global climate change (Walther et al. 2002). Incremental changes in the underlying climate appear
to have resulted in less demarcation of the seasons which impacts on aspects such as: agricultural
productivity, an increase in the presence of invasive flora and fauna species and a subsequent rise in
plant and human disease outbreaks (VNACCC 2009). More than 75% of Vanuatu’s settlements are
located in coastal areas and are experiencing coastal erosion problems which have required some
villages to relocate to higher ground. All urban areas rely on groundwater sources for fresh water,
and experience localised flooding due to poor drainage which contaminates groundwater (BOM
2006).
 

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