Be prepared – Resilience building


The villagers of Nakabuta in Nadroga. Picture: SUPPLIED

06/07/2021 By: Ariela Zibiah
The Fiji Times, Fiji

Advancing resilience: be interested

The Fijian village of Nakabuta is renowned in the field of archaeology as a group of people that continue to practice age-old pottery-making techniques, the distinctive pottery tradition of lapita, (functional) art form brought to our shores by ocean nomads some 3000 years ago.

Pottery has remained the economic backbone of these villagers, by women practitioners who sustained the village by hosting day tours pre-COVID-19 days. What they earned met basic needs. Nakabuta Village is nestled in savanna hills some 20 minutes upriver from Sigatoka Town in the Nadroga/Navosa Province.

In the face of an advancing global pandemic, the tour company they worked with, Pacific Destinations, facilitated a long-term investment in the village which they celebrated earlier this year: the completion of a study building for their children, that when the need arises, doubles as an evacuation centre, funded by one of Pacific Destination’s United States-based clients.

Informed by his childhood experience of not having an environment conducive to studying, Pacific Destinations managing director James Sowane said the Nakabuta experience was “one of the most fulfilling projects I have managed”. Mr Sowane organised village talanoa to explain the concept of investing in education (rather than the usual gifting books and money). The study hall features an Honours Board for children who attain tertiary qualification(s) to inspire younger ones. A memorandum of understanding was signed by both parties underlining their commitment to education and a promise that the building will not be used for village functions.

The Nakabuta experience is an example of how private sector players can contribute to resilience-building in our communities. There is intention to replicate it across the country if not the region, ideally with private sector partners. This story of partnership for resilience will be among the many Pacific experiences that will be shared at the second Pacific Resilience Meeting (PRM) this week (July 5-8).

Pathway to the Pacific Resilience meeting

Resilience is defined as “the ability of a system, community or society exposed to hazards, and/or climate change, to resist, absorb, accommodate and recover from the consequences of a hazard event or of climate change in a timely and efficient manner. This includes through the preservation and restoration of its essential basic structures and functions” in the Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific: An integrated approach to address climate change and disaster risk management 2017-2030 (FRDP).

Pacific Islands Forum Leaders at their 2012 meeting endorsed the concept of the FRDP to replace two separate regional frameworks on climate change and disaster risk management. The FRDP by its very nature advocates for integrated approaches to better respond to the cross-cutting issues that arise from the impacts of climate change and disaster risks. The biennial PRM is a key component of the governance structure to support the effective implementation of the FRDP.

The FRDP has three interrelated goals – enhancing resilience to climate change and disaster through integrated approaches, low-carbon development and strengthened disaster preparedness, response, and recovery. The Pacific Resilience Partnership (PRP), a key institutional component to achieve the FRDP goals, is tasked to convene various stakeholders and communities of practice in climate change, disaster risk management and sustainable development. The PRP is guided by the 10 FRDP principles that seek to maintain integrated approaches, inclusivity, an informed and a sustained population.

The effective implementation of the FRDP would contribute to the implementation of the Agenda for Sustainable Development (2015-2030), UNFCCC Paris Agreement on Climate Change (2015), the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015-2030), and the Small Islands Development States Accelerated Modalities of Action (S.A.M.O.A) Pathway (2014).

Why should Fijians be interested

The theme of the 2021 PRM is our people, our journey, nurturing Pacific resilience from home, a recognition of the region’s traditional knowledge and cultural approaches to resilience, whilst recognising the increasing risks posed by climate change and the need to transition towards a carbon neutral energy sector.

For collective progress towards addressing the various manifestations of vulnerability we face – as individuals, families, communities, countries and as a region – it is imperative to remain informed of discussions that occur in spaces like the PRM. Being informed about the trends and recommendations from the different components of the meeting can be critical to your decision-making processes as private citizens, as community leaders, as entrepreneurs, etc.

One of the guiding principles of the FRDP is the integration of gender considerations in the planning and implementation of development activities towards the realisation of its goals, ensuring equitable participation.

Another encourages building on existing cultural and traditional resilience and knowledge of communities who should be engaged. For Pacific Island communities, the FRDP also provides for the acknowledgement and consideration of traditional holistic world views where spirituality plays an integral role in constructing a meaningful life and a pro-active existence.

While the organisers have brought together representatives that cover a cross section of our island communities, being interested, and informed in discussion outcomes should be an individual commitment.

Rhonda Robinson, the deputy director of the Pacific Community’s Disaster and Community Resilience underlines the importance of being cognizant of deliberations at the PRM. Ms Robinson speaks of how stories that will be shared at the PRM will be useful as well in terms of relatability.

“All the stories you’ll hear are experiences that are from the Pacific – locally-owned and locally-led, from a science to policy dimension, to a practice dimension, from community level to cabinet – that will help us perhaps better appreciate and understand how we as a region, as a nation, as a community build our resilience and self-reliance,” Ms Robinson said.

Susan Naisara-Grey, the executive director of Fem’Link Pacific, said it was important that people were aware of discussions and the outcome of the meeting because “the issues actually impact them”.

“When you have others in the room that share unfiltered information direct from the community, from a rural woman to a government minister or state agencies without being filtered by some of us that are here in the capital, it’s really important to try and have direct engagement,” Ms Naisara-Grey said.

  • Ariela Zibiah is a communications and media practitioner based in Suva (Fiji). The views expressed are the author’s and not necessarily the views of this newspaper.