Responding to Climate Change

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. 
  • 1500 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 8 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:

  1. Awareness and education on climate change to build children’s ability to adapt
  2. Action through participatory planning and implementation of community and school adaptation projects
  3. Advocacy with government stakeholders to take into account children’s voices and their rights in climate change actions.

4CA Flyharbour school children

4CA Fly Harbour school children.

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.

Fly Harbour Champions of climate change.

Where to from here?

There is still work to be done to ensure communities are able to adapt and respond to the effects of climate change and disasters. Through the partnership we’ve set the foundation to have an even greater impact, with your support. Plan International’s programming and technical support to the Solomon Islands National Adaptation Programmes of Action could be expanded through new collaborative work in-country, and staying engaged with government and non-government influencers, and communities. The relationships we have built provide the opportunity to continue our work to build resilient communities including:

  • early warning systems, disaster drills, and pre-season preparedness
  • strengthening emergency response measures with youth involvement
  • micro insurance for high value crop commodities such as sea weed production
  • rain water harvesting
  • resettlement of communities affected by sea level and extreme climate events
  • improved sanitation in communities living in atolls and low lying areas
  • natural solutions to coastal protection
  • near shore food security fishing by women fishers.

We need to conduct periodic disaster drills, move to higher ground in event of king tides and tsunamis, and we are building our evacuation centres in elevated areas. With educating island communities, I believe people will help themselves cope with the impacts of climate change and disaster. Previously, many of us did not have access to information on climate variabilities, and what to do before, during and after a disaster strikes.”

Raymond Valasikala, Village Chief of Karumulan 

Building on indigenous and local knowledge of natural disasters, more informed forecasts of extreme climatic events and livelihood options from the provincial office of disaster management can help us to plan and organise ourselves. The focus on social protection and inclusion of the most vulnerable groups, and the different roles played by men and women in climate change adaptation, preparation and recovery are becoming more prominent in the island communities.

Being a parent and a community leader, I am encouraged to see our children become more confident in developing child-led adaptation plans that concern their school and community. The village disasters committees have included children, youth, women, the elderly and disabled persons’ unique experiences into account and provided an opportunity where they can express themselves on issues that affect them.We all have a role to play in community resilience.”

Julie Do’oro, Village Women’s Group, Russell Islands.

In light of global leaders struggling to commit to climate change solutions, it’s heartening to see communities come together and ensure everyone is heard. These villages are getting to work to prepare and adapt. Now it’s our turn.


Hear me, together we’ll fight climate change.

From the Children and Youth Forum on climate change in the Solomon Islands.

Just take a good look around

You’ll see a world, slowly changing

From bad to worse, it’ll be sinking

And everything we hold so dear

Soon will not be here

PRE

But it’s not too late to stand and fight this invading calamity

This nation’s destiny (depends on you and me) 2x

Chorus

So hear me out, together we’ll fight

Climate change 

Though it sounds so strange

We must start this quest

And do our very best

To conserve and preserve the environment

Both we and the Government

Should collaborate and educate the people

And for sure we’ll embrace the pride and beauty

Of our nation……. Solomon Islands

Know that we fail to care

But since we’re still here

We’ll make a redirection for the better

Sooner than later

This is what we’ll do

To make it through

PRE

But it’s not too late to stand and fight this invading calamity

This nation’s destiny (depends on you and me) 2x

REPEAT CHORUS.

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