The Lonamilo community on Tanna celebrated the opening of a new USAID funded project yesterday morning, with a delegation from Port Vila.
The delegation to the USAID Coastal Community Adaptation Project C-CAP inauguration ceremony included the United States Ambassador to Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu Catherine Ebert-Gray, the US AID/C-CCAP Chief of Party, Nick Hobgood, Minister for Climate Change Adaptation,Meteorology, Geo- hazards Environment, Energy and Disaster Management, Ham Lini and the Minister for Public Utilities, Jotham Napat.
In the opening remarks, Chief Iaman Ialulu said there are 14 tribes altogether that will benefit from the project. He said it is a huge achievement for the surrounding communities, but also thanked the US government and the Vanuatu government for building back what has been damage by TC Pam as he welcomes the delegations.
C-CAP Chief of Party, Nick Hobgood said it was with great pleasure that he participated in the important event yesterday because the United States Agency for international Development US AID’s Coastal Community Adaptation Project or C- CAP has been working in Vanuatu developing climate adaptation strategies since their first meetings with the Vanuatu government in 2013.
He said C-CAP began with community consultations since mid-2013 and 10 Vanuatu communities convened in groups to identify the risks that they had been experiencing through the years.
“ I remember vividly, community members here in Lonamilo, had stories to tell of devastating cyclones that caused considerable damage to the community infrastructure and droughts that provoked food security problems were people had to have assistance food,”said Hobgood.
“We were very impressed with the resilience demonstrated by the members of the Lonamilo community facing and enduring these events.”
He said this resilience was again recently tested with cyclone Pam and showed once again that the people of Vanuatu are very strong but at the same time it emphasized the need of additional support for climate adaptation strategies to help communities better face future extreme events.
Hobgood also said climate scientists are predicting that all the cyclones may be less frequent, they going to be more intense so this is good news but at the same time requires preparation for on coming events. He said rain fall will also is predicted to be less protectable so maybe the longer period of drought, rain fall events may come more intense of a shorter period of time, and those of you who have experienced landslides which were also identified by many Tanna communities as issues, may face again more intense issues with these unpredictable rain fall events.
“ So as a follow up, C-CAP worked with community members using a prioritization tool, which looked at climate change impacts and what they may look like in the coming years including heavy rainfall events, more intense cyclones, and increased sea level rise which is not so much as issue for Lonamilo but for other coastal communities” he said.
The community went through their different climate adaptation needs and identified a short list of important activities that would help the community members better face the impacts of climate change.
Lonamilo ranked a school and an aid post as high priority needs in the community.
He said this prompted the C- CAP project to start looking at the different options to address these needs while also taking potential climate related impacts into consideration. A C- CAP engineer came to Lonamilo to look at options and, in consultation with the community, identified a solution that would both provide a building that could serve both as a school and as a shelter for vulnerable community members during extreme weather events and cyclones.
The building is also equipped with rain water catchment capability to store water for use during times of long dry seasons and droughts.
Ambassador Ebert – Gray, said according to many scientific studies, Vanuatu is one of the most acceptable nation on earth to natural disasters. “As a result, fresh water is becoming less and less available, beaches and river banks are eroding and facilities like the community center schools and medical facilities are increasingly vulnerable.
“Here in Lonamilo, we understand that shifting weather patterns are growing concern. And these changes as well as the changes of El Nino bring challenges for Pacific islands like yours.
“But the United States government remains committed to supporting communities in Vanuatu and in fact across the Pacific as a whole so they may achieve their development goals and continue the increase resilience to climate change by building capacity for disaster prevention preparedness and improved the quality of lives”.
In closing, Ambassador Catherine asked the community to protect the shelter and maintain it in order to cater for future disasters and for their children.