In Australia, climate change is still a hot topic of debate. For our neighbours in the Pacific, the impact of climate change is already a reality, and children are incredibly vulnerable to its effects. Plan International has been working with our partners to help communities understand the impact of climate change and how they can respond to the real threat it poses to lives and livelihoods.
Climate Change Response in Solomon Islands
The sea level has risen significantly in the Solomon Islands capital of Honiara. Tide gauge and satellite data show an annual increase of eight millimetres over the last two decades. Because of this, the urban settlements along the river and shorelines are becoming more susceptible to sudden disasters. Bursting riverbanks, coastal flooding and erosion are threatening coastal infrastructure, settlements and facilities like wells and sanitation installations that are critical to community health. Climate change also exacerbates extreme events, threatening food security and the coping practices of remote island communities.
Alongside our partners Solomon Islands Development Trust (SIDT), Plan International supported the National Disaster Management Office and government departments at district, province and national levels to plan, prepare for and respond to future risk and disaster.
The partnership saw the development of training materials on climate awareness and disaster response. School curriculum materials were piloted for year five students learning about climate change. We built on existing child-centred climate change adaption programs in the Pacific and the Australian humanitarian program to deliver the following:
- A baseline study to understand climate-affected livelihoods in targeted communities and adaptation options.
- 12 community response group and village Disaster Risk Management (DRM) committees were established.
- Remote communities across the country accessed early warning systems initiated by the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) through national radio broadcasts and media.
- 120 NDMO and government staff and 655 community youth volunteers were trained in DRM and climate resilience.
- We supported NDMO activities on early warning system; review of community based DRM manual and national data.
- 1,500 children, 605 women and 54 people with disabilities participated in climate vulnerability and capacity analysis and developed community adaptation and disaster response action plans.
- We supported the design and implementation of 12 climate change and disaster plans developed by community groups, through awareness raising, capacity building and access to small grants to implement their plans. The Central Islands Provincial government pledged support for these community action plans through the provincial capacity development fund.
- The mainstreaming of indigenous and local knowledge into human health responses to climate change impacts.
- 60 students and youth participated in the Solomon Islands youth forum on climate change action, and dialogue with the Minister of Environment Conservation, Climate Change, Meteorology and Disaster Risk Management, and members of Parliament.
- Access to small grants from the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives to finance community adaptation plans for child-centred safe water and sanitation facility for Fly Harbour School.
Reaching out to remote communities
“We have seen changes occurring right at our doorstep without any hint or knowing that it is due to the threat of climate change. We silently watched our shorelines disappearing… I still remember how a decade ago the shoreline was about eight to 10 meters away. Today, with sea level rise, saltwater intrusion of our wells, and coastal erosion of our houses we had to move inland by another 10 metres.”
George Hency, Village Chief, Marulaon
The remote communities of Russell Islands in Central Island Province and Ugi in Makira- Ulawa Province live only two metres above sea level. Our partnership has expanded our work to reach these vulnerable communities through the provincial and local governments and four schools.
Before the training, climate change, disasters and how to respond to it weren’t on the agenda for the community in Selwyn Bay.
“Climate change and disaster have never been part of any community meeting. It is only when a disaster strikes that people think about it. Now, the community realised it as an issue of concern that requires advance planning and preparation. The training we received from SIDT is empowering us and maximising our ability to cope with the adverse impacts of climate change. The village disaster committees have prepared action plans to respond to drought, hazards, and early warning announcements on radio. Our local understanding and practices to cope with environmental and climatic changes are enhanced by more informed scientific knowledge and weather forecasts.”
Nathaniel Tahasi, resident pastor, Uki Parish, Selwyn Bay
We have now 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.
The three key elements to the 4CA approach were:
- Awareness and education on climate change to build children’s ability to adapt
- Action through participatory planning and implementation of community and school adaptation projects
- Advocacy with government stakeholders to take into account children’s voices and their rights in climate change actions.
Fly Harbour Primary 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 Baisen 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. A resource book for year five 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 institutionalised in our students’ extra-curricular activities.”
Beslin Piru, school headmaster
“Contextualising the climate change and disaster to fit rural Solomon Island schools made it easier for us to understand and talk about our experiences and ideas for adaptation.”
Hudson, year 6 student of Fly Harbour School
During a visit to Fly Harbour School at a learning session, an enthusiastic group of boys and girls spoke to our adviser to SIDT, Marilou Drilon, about their perceptions on the effects of climate change on their lives and they as children can play in the community to help find solutions and mitigate the risks.
Lavi, a 12-year-old girl explains, “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 program valued incorporating children’s knowledge and understanding of climate change adaption actions like coastline protection, caring for the environment and biodiversity and disaster preparedness. By ensuring children have this knowledge, and are heard we aim to achieve safe and resilient communities.