Children First: Insights on Climate Adaptation and Disaster Preparedness in Pockets of the Coral TriangleCatch of the Week
Young people in various parts of the Solomon Islands are becoming effective agents of change, making meaningful contributions to foster environmental stewardship and strengthen disaster and climate risk resilience.
The Russell Islands are located approximately 48 kilometres northwest of Guadalcanal in the Central Province of the Solomon Islands. The locals say the two small islands of Pavuvu and Mbanika are surrounded by about 100 islets of volcanic origin partially covered in coconut plantations. The Lavukal indigenous people live on these islands; their major livelihoods are sourced from the sea, food gardens and coconut trees.
Seven islet villages—Laola, Nono, Marulaon, Karumulun, Baisen, Leru and Mane—have designated marine protected areas (MPAs) through efforts of the Solomon Islands Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, led by Jacob Piturana, a provincial officer stationed in Tulagi. The designated MPAs surrounding the islets are marked by poles or protruding rocks exposed at low tide that are yet to be formalized in village plans.
Village Chief Raymond Valasikala said they are yet to integrate their existing traditional community practices, such as customary marine tenure systems, prohibitions against consumptions of certain species, and ecological knowledge of locally managed marine areas, with the modern notions of ecosystem approaches promoted by the Coral Triangle Initiative. “For the last 5 years, we see visible change in the return of fish, crocodiles, regeneration of corals, trochus, and sea cucumbers in our marine protected area. On a special occasion, once a year we open our MPA for harvest, with each family limited to catch 10 fish,” Valasikala explained.
The Solomon Islands Development Trust (SIDT) has complemented the community conservation and climate adaptation efforts in the western Russell Islands to establish climate change and disaster preparedness plans in three villages and a school under the child-centred climate change adaptation (4CA) program supported by the Australian government and Plan International. There are three key elements to the 4CA approach: (i) awareness and education on climate change to build children’s adaptive capacities; (ii) action through participatory planning and implementation of community and school adaptation projects; and (iii) advocacy with government stakeholders to take into account children’s voices and their rights in climate change actions.
The Fly Harbour Primary School in Baisen is attended by children boarding as young as six years of age through to 14, from the neighbouring islet communities. Parents pack food and school bags on Sunday afternoon and travel by boat to Biasen to drop off their children. The older children look after the younger ones in the dormitories, and they all return home on Friday afternoon to be with their families.
“The children’s participation in the 4CA program in Fly Harbour has raised awareness and appreciation of parents, teachers and local communities in mapping climate vulnerability and hazards in their school grounds and waterfront,” said Beslin Piru, school headmaster. A resource book for year 5 climate change learners and teachers was also produced in collaboration with SIDT and is now integrated in our school curriculum. Tree planting, seedling nurseries and food gardens are institutionalized in our students’ extra-curricular activities.
During a visit to Fly Harbour school at a learning session, enthusiastic boys and girls spoke to Marilou Drilon, adviser to SIDT, of their perceptions on the effects of climate change on their lives and their role in child-led community solutions to climate vulnerability and risks. Lavi, a 12-year-old girl said “we are experiencing the effects of sea level rise and coastal erosion of our islands, drought affecting our community’s crops and freshwater source, and intense cyclones. We want to be part of the solution and protect our planet.” Parents were highly receptive to messages from their children about how they want the world to look. The incorporation of children’s knowledge and understanding of adaptation actions such as coastline protection, caring for the environment and biodiversity, and disaster preparedness in planning processes, is aimed to achieve safe and resilient communities.
“Looking at climate change risk through a child’s eyes provides a different perspective on environmental and social issues and responses,” said Drilon. “Young people are becoming powerful advocates of climate change adaptation in their communities. They are effective agents of change, making meaningful contributions to foster environmental stewardship and strengthen disaster and climate risk resilience. The participation of young people is necessary if the interest of future generations is to be safeguarded.”
(Story by SIDT. Photos by Jamal Namo, SIDT)