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Asia-Pacific Regional Conference on "The Environments of the Poor in the Context of Climate Change and the Green Economy: Making Sustainable Development More Inclusive", 24-26 Nov 2010 in Delhi, India

Climate change adaptation of the poor and vulnerable in small coastal Islands in the Pacific: implications for poverty reduction

Anjeela Jokhan and Murari Lal The University of the South Pacific Fiji Islands In a world that is becoming increasingly networked, globalised and western knowledge-based, the situation of the Pacific Island Countries (PICs) continue to be one of growing vulnerability with an increasing inability to respond to these changes. The small island sizes, their remoteness, fragile ecosystems and economies make these countries very special cases. In their effort to address these challenges, the PICs have embraced sustainable development (SD) as a pathway for the future by becoming party to various international, regional and national agreements. The Pacific Island Countries (PICs) rely heavily on imported food and given the continuous increase in the price of imported foods the PIC face a real challenge in maintaining adequate food imports and spending more GDP on imports of food. Local food production, both marine and terrestrial are threatened by temperature of sea water rising and soil salinisation. Climate Change is the greatest challenge facing the world since the beginning of the 21st century. The effects of climate change are already being observed on every continent and sectors. Climate Change is increasing the frequency and intensity of natural hazards, particularly floods, storms and droughts. Compared to an average of 300 natural disasters per year from 1980-2000, this past decade saw 426 events per year. The climate-related worldwide disaster occurrence rose from 50% in the 1980s to 82% since 2005. What is at stake in the Pacific Island Countries? Coastal protection – mangroves, reefs, mudflats, sea-grass beds Climate regulation – seasonal and decadal cycles (e.g. El nino) and long-term processes – oceans as heat sink and carbon sink. Environmental flows – river and floodplain services – livelihoods, soil fertility, sediment deposition Biodiversity conservation – reefs, the deep sea, polar ecosystems, shelf-seas, mangroves, floodplains, ancient lakes

Cultural services – coastal heritage, identity and spirituality, education and knowledge, aesthetic enjoyment, food, culture Some examples of impacts of Climate Change in the PIC: - Impacts on fisheries PICs rely heavily on the oceans for food (fish, sea shells, sea grass and others). With a rise in the temperature of sea water a real impact is seen on food supply. Since most populations are living in the coastal areas this has a major impact on their livelihoods. Less abundance of food, smaller organisms and the loss of biodiversity are real issues for these people. Ecological stability of mangroves and coral reefs.

Coral reefs not only provide protection to the shorelines but provides various types of marine food. Coral bleaching is a global phenomenon that seems to be increasing in frequency, scale and severity. The South Pacific experienced major mass coral bleaching in 2000. During late February through to early March 2000, mass bleaching occurred in Fiji after a prolonged period of temperatures in excess of 30 C. This coincided with similar coral bleaching being reported across the South Pacific from Papua New Guinea to Easter Island. A major bleaching occurred subsequently in Fiji in 2002 and mainly affected the north sides of the two main islands, which had escaped the 2000 bleaching. Kiribati suffered severe bleaching in 2003 in the Phoenix Islands and in the Gilberts in 2005 (Lovell, 2005). A real impact of this is being experienced throughout the PICs.

Mangroves also provide protection to the coastal shorelines and therefore are crucial in the survival of populations in coastal areas. The impacts of loss of mangroves (both due to the impact of stronger currents and human activity) are fast eroding our coastal shores. In addition to this mangroves provide a haven for many organisms which are food for coastal communities. With the loss of mangroves these ecosystems are affected, thus reducing food supply. -

Impact on agriculture due to soil salinazation

PICs rely very heavily on imported food. They are small countries with small populations and therefore industries are not present. Agriculture is the only industry which PICs can invest in. However, to a large extent this is not developed in the PICs. In any case with the impact of rise in food prices countries are trying to improve agriculture. However, they are faced with the issue of soil salinazation. With sea level rise and along with higher wave and wind patterns water intrusion into the soil is already occurring and is likely to occur further. This means that people living in the coastal areas face difficulty with agriculture. Tuvalu is a good example of a atoll

island which relies on fresh ground water and rainfall. With the ground water become more saline the need for water for human consumption is becoming demanding let alone water for crops. There is therefore the need to look at local crops that can be farmed for food and which are salt tolerant. Currently the Secretariat of the Pacific Community and the University of the South Pacific are carrying our research on salt tolerance in Giant Swamp taro (Cyrtosperma merkusii) a local aroid and hopefully inducing salinity tolerance in one of the cultivars, by doing so ensuring future food security for the islands. Giant swamp taro is not only a highly consumed aroid and a local staple root crop but also holds immense cultural significance for Micronesians, who happen to be one of the most drastically, affected group of island nations by the incidence of increased soil salinity (Eid and Huisbergen, 1992; Gerald,2007). In terms of aquatic food, a significant effort is being made on developing aquaculture but again with soil salinisation this has not become a significant venture. Developing and maintain aquaculture is expensive, at least initially and this is one of the deterrent faced by countries. - Social consequences due to sea level rise and coastal erosion leading to relocation Many PICs are extremely vulnerable to climate change induced risks (e.g. large scale inundation due to sea level rise and widespread damages with high intensity tropical cyclones). They could be among the first to be forced to abandon and relocate from their homes due to accelerated sea level rise. Most people in PICs can be classified as coastal dwellers because most settlements are in coastal areas. This is because of the ease of obtaining food and transportation. The sheer smallness of the islands means that with sea level rose and soil salinazation most people are being affected. In several cases the only choice that people have is relocation to higher grounds inland. This means that large investments need to be made and this is an option which governments are unwilling to make, given so many other pressing needs. In Fiji itself two large towns have a clear need to relocate. Signs of climate change are evident but it is not yet seen to be an option for the government because of the large resource implications it has. This issue remains unresolved.

The combination of development choices, adaptation actions and capacities will allow us to address the issue of climate change effectively. Understanding the implications of the impacts of a changing climate at the local level is necessary to effective adaptation. It is important to understand adaption as part of development choices. Loss of land is a major concern throughout the Pacific, considering that in many countries, a large proportion of their population live in rural areas. Even for the higher and larger islands, the loss of land associated with sea level rise will be devastating in the coastal areas. In the atolls, where the average height of landmass is less than 5m, the loss of land or whole islands will mean catastrophic changes (Veitayaki et al 2007). .

Below is a table illustrating poverty scenarios in some PICs

Country Vanuatu

Poverty level 40%

Comments Largest investment is in infrastructure an education. Low in health and agriculture There is variability within the population. Households with female Head of Household and those with elderly HH are often poorer Larger percentage of overall household expenses goes to food. In poorer household about 60% Poor 20% of the population would spend about 8-0% if the income on food

Palau Kiribati

25% 22%

Solomon Islands




The measurement of poverty in PICs is not that simple and numbers presented here may not necessarily be a true a true picture by normal definition because of the social structure in PICs. People, particularly in the rural areas live in communities, extended families. They share food and other necessities, brig in collective income and food and share this. Therefore, to determine poverty in such structures is not simple. In a attempt to reduce poverty, equip the people with knowledge and skills, and to work towards more sustainable future several national and regional projects are being carried out in the PIC. These address issues at the research and higher education levels, short term training of policy makers and other practioners as well as a significant work is being done with communities to build their resilience. Climate Change adaptation is critical in the PICs. This requires a large investment in capacity building. Vulnerability in the Pacific context is at several levels. with food insecurity being at the centre. Several impacts of climate change are fewer and less gardens, less pre-cyclone preparation, no surplus of root crops and no storage, delayed post-cyclone replanting, diminishing food wild food stocks, etc. These of course have an impact on population growth, preservation of land, imported food, disaster relief, changing traditional knowledge, reduced incentives for younger people, community governance and social cohesion.

Changing traditional knowledge is to some extent having an impact on the vulnerability of the PICs. Formal education no longer emphasises on traditional learning by seeing and experiencing things. There is a breakdown in traditional education and a loss of knowledge and skills. The values are changing and less incentives are given for labour input. Many cultures say that every day we plant something in the ground so when a natural disaster hits, we do not lose all our food. Also, the tradition of storing food underground is being lost. We no longer plan for our future. This leads to less production and higher reliance on aid and imports, making the PICs very vulnerable. Social vulnerability is also an issue. At the national and regional levels the political and economic systems become the root causes leading to a loss in development directions. Pressures at the provincial and national scales are impacted for example local markets, institutional capacity and service provision. At the local level unsafe conditions such as dangerous settlement locations, unemployment , special groups at risk and lack of access to information. All these lead to how we prepare for and respond to disasters Gender dimensions also come into the picture because men and women are affected differently by climate stress because they have different roles to play in everyday life. Naturally, women are seen to be responsible for food security because they are responsible for dependants. However, they are excluded from information and access to resources.. The practical target for PICs is ensuring development is more sustainable. An approach that will permit continuing improvements in the quality of life at a lower intensity of resource use, thereby preserving for future generations an undiminished or even enhanced stock of productive assets (manufactured, natural and social, capital)’The language of climate change is global - but the action has to be profoundly local and PIC’s hopes lie in sustainable consumption of natural resources The University of the South Pacific’s role in Education for Sustainable Development. Education for multiple stakeholders. The University is a position to provide education for institutions, civil society, media, youth, communities, governments, private sector – focus on knowledge, skill & perspective through its various Outreach Programs


Flexible learning. with its forty years of experience in distance and flexible learning in formal, non-formal and informal modalities it is able to address all three Pillars of SD (Economics, Environment, Society/Culture) The University is also engaged in Advocacy, Networking and Awareness Building. Overall the University undertakes education and capacity building to help communities towards assessing specific vulnerability of sectors and communities, monitoring the threats and impacts of climate change, assessing the potential impacts of climate change, impacts f mitigation and

adaptation activities on ecosystems, and monitoring the sustainability and success of adaptation and mitigation activities. References 1. Eid, E and C.H.Huisbergen.1992. Sea level rise and Coastal Zone Management. Default hydraulics, Switzerland, no.471. 2. Gerald,D.M.,M.S.Fenster,B.A.Argow and I.V.Buynevich. 2007.Coastal Impacts due to Sea level rise 3. Lovell, E. 2005. Coral Bleaching In Fiji and the South Pacific. PIMRIS Newsletter.Vol. 17. No. 4.PIMRIS Coordination Unit. Marine Studies Programme, University of the South Pacific. 4. Veitayaki, J., P. Manoa and A. Resture. 2007. Addressing climate change and sea level rise in the Pacific Islands.