In Vanuatu, North Efate communities are champions of natural resource management awareness. Each village has an environment committee to manage and regulate the use of marine and land resources.
Two networks of environment committees work together to meet increasing challenges in sustainable ridge-to-reef management in the area: the Tasi Vanua and Nguna-Pele marine protected area networks. These network are members of a larger group, the VanuaTai resource monitors, which includes around 400 community volunteers who have stepped forward to be agents of change.
Since October 2015, the Restoration of Ecosystem Services and adaptation to Climate Change project (RESCCUE), is working with members of these networks to build their capacity, and draw on community knowledge and expertise in North Efate to manage coastal resources. RESCCUE is implemented by the Pacific Community (SPC) with the Government of Vanuatu, and funding from the French Development Agency and the French Global Environment Facility.
“Both communities and ecosystems in North Efate face significant challenges, in particular the need to adapt to the increasing impacts from climate change,” said our RESCCUE Project Deputy Coordinator, Dr Jean-Baptiste Marre. Strengthening the resources, planning capacity and leadership of these grassroots environmental networks is an important way to build local resilience,” he said.
Communities in North Efate are subsistence-based, relying on family agricultural plots and reef fishing. Although the economy is moving to a market base, people depend on natural resources for household food, income, cultural significance and disaster recovery.
In North Efate, the greatest direct impacts from climate change are expected to be due to extreme weather events such as tropical cyclones, flooding and drought, and changes to marine and coastal resources due to increasing sea surface temperature, ocean acidification, and sea-level rise. Additional issues include declining productivity of coastal fisheries, poor waste management and water infrastructure, invasive species management – in particular crown of thorns starfish outbreaks – and recovery from 2015 Tropical Cyclone Pam.
The Tasi Vanua network includes most villages in northern Efate. It was set up in 2010 under the leadership of environment committee members and a local NGO. The Nguna-Pele network was created in 2003 and is managed by representatives from Nguna and Pele islands communities.
Both networks foster sustainable management of natural resources in North Efate through monitoring, communication and awareness-raising. They have carried out a large number of resource management activities over the past few years, working with multiple national agencies and regional organisations, including SPC.
RESCCUE supports Tasi Vanua and Nguna-Pele networks to develop and provide coastal monitoring training and a toolkit for the community resource monitors. Funding and support is also provided by the SPC-GIZ (German aid agency) project, Coping with Climate Change in the Pacific Island Region project (CCCPIR). In 2016, a resource monitor centre is being built for the networks to centralise monitoring information and host environmental education and information activities, targeting women and youth.
The first steps of the coastal resource monitoring training were a great success, said Nguna-Pele network chairman, Tasaruru Whitely. “It has opened our eyes to real monitoring,” he said.
RESCCUE also aims to build the financial sustainability of the two networks by developing business plans, setting up innovative financial mechanisms and governance processes to manage necessarily limited resources. At the end of RESCCUE the two networks should be financially autonomous while recipes for success can be transferred to other islands in Vanuatu and the Pacific.
North Efate communities and their ecosystems are under threat from increasing climate change impacts, and food security and environmental issues.
Tasi Vanua and Nguna-Pele marine protected area networks have been set up by local communities to address these challenges.
The RESCCUE project, implemented by SPC with the Government of Vanuatu, is working with the people of North Efate.