Climate Change

Tailevu Prepping Up For A Resilient Future

With a population of more than 200, villagers are determined and strong willed to do whatever they can to save the land they have always called home.
20 Sep 2021 11:32
Tailevu Prepping Up For A Resilient Future
Daku villagers have been raising funds to buy soil to help fill in areas within the village that are inundated with water. Photo: Kelera Sovasiga

Relocation is not an option. At least for now.

Even the health problems brought about by the stagnant waters that fill up low village grounds for days have only inspired Uraia Vuetibau to do all he possibly can to save his village.

Mr Vuetibau is the village headman.

Daku Village is about 20 minutes drive from Nausori Town. Located inland, the village is not exempted from the wrath of the climate crisis.

It has damaged food plantations, brought about coastal erosion, and has eroded wooden and concrete support beams of homes.

With a population of more than 200, villagers are determined and strong willed to do whatever they can to save the land they have always called home.

EXISTING CHALLENGES

Approaching the village, one can not deny the physical evidence of sea intrusion into village grounds.

“When seawater enters the village, it leaves behind stagnant water and becomes a breeding ground for mosquitoes,” Mr Vuetibau said.

“Our children become vulnerable to water-borne diseases because of the stagnant water. We do weekly cleanups to protect families from getting sick and it has improved greatly to date.”

Mr Vuetibau is positive that their adaptation and mitigation plans will save village.

“Growing up, I realised that we will be fighting tooth and nail against the impacts of climate change because of the foundation of our village grounds,” he said

The low-lying village is surrounded by mangroves.

Mr Vuetibau told of how his ancestors transported soft stones from Kaba and Toberua, mixed it with soil before it was used. Part of the village sits on reclaimed land. Evidence of this led to the construction of 950 metres ‘road diet’- like a seawall around the village.

The road diet was adopted from Norway after the Crown Prince of Norway – His Royal Highness Haakon Magnus – visited the village on a Climate Change Project in 2019.

Tikoko Cecere, 55, recalls how his grandparents talked about the abundant wealth that the land would bring to the people of Daku.

“Before all these, we had seasonal fruits in abundance and in huge sizes like mangoes and pawpaw. But now we’ve noticed its size has decreased because of the interruption of seawater into our farms,” Mr Cecere said.

“About 50 years after our elders settled here, they noticed the rise in sea level and the ground becoming softer. Every time it rained, water was not absorbed into the ground but just settled on top,” he said.

ASSISTANCE, ADAPTATION FOR DAKU VILLAGE

In 1994, Daku had its first fundraiser to assist in village developments.

In 2015, four floodgates were funded by the Fijian Government and one by USAid.

Floodgates in the village have been helpful, but when the tide rises water continues to enter the village. Photo: Kelera Sovasiga

Floodgates in the village have been helpful, but when the tide rises water
continues to enter the village. Photo: Kelera Sovasiga

Mr Vuetibau is appreciative of government and non-government organisation funding towards the village as the rising sea levels are a major threat to coastal villages.

“The floodgates have been helpful however when there is high tide, water continues to enter the village, to the extent where some homes are submerged,” Mr Vuetibau.

Four floodgates have steel flap gates and the USAid is made out of proprietary geosynthetic material.

Currently, as part of the village main project, $9800 has been raised to purchase soil to help fill in areas inundated with water.

“We will do everything in our power to keep our village raised above seawater because this is our only home,”

The innovative floodgate valve is designed to protect the village during heavy rainfall and saltwater intrusion by automatically activating when water pressure builds up and prevents backflow to flood-prone areas.

However, sea intrusion has seen the corrosion of reinforcing steel on a number of floodgates funded by the Government.

The same goes for concrete beams for homes – sea inundation has exposed the vulnerable concrete within.

FOOD SECURITY, RELOCATION

Mr Vuetibau is hoping to have another floodgate installed near the village farm.

“Right now, when there is heavy rain or high tide, water seeps right to our farms and that affects the growth of our crops.

“We hope people will understand our story and how much our forefathers have worked hard so we can benefit, and we will continue to do that for our future generations.”

Food security remains a growing concern. But Mr Vuetibau adamant that relocation is not an option as this is the only land they’ve known their entire lives.

“We have had experts tell us to look into relocation but we as a village, will not relocate,” he said.

Mr Cecere shared the same sentiments.

Climate change has brought about coastal erosion and has eroded wooden and concrete support beams of homes. Photo: Kelera Sovasiga

Climate change has brought about coastal erosion and has eroded wooden and concrete support beams of homes. Photo: Kelera Sovasiga

“We do not want to relocate and rebuild our lives again though we have been told that it will be less costly to relocate than to stay here and continue to adapt to the effects of climate change,” Mr Cecere said.

“We have learnt to adapt and understand mitigation in ways that can help sustain our livelihood and we will keep fighting to stay afloat.”

The future of Daku Village really depends on their daily fight to survive.

The recent Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) in its assessment report said that Small Island Pacific Countries (SIDS) will continue to experience a positive rate of sea level rise.

The rate of global mean sea level (GMSL) projections predict that sea level will be 0.4m to 0.8m higher at the end of this century around the Pacific Islands.

Despite the depressing outlook, Daku Village continues to hold community engagement with stakeholders to better prepare villagers for a more climate-resilient future.

Edited by Rosi Doviverata

Feedback: kelera.sovasiga@fijisun.com.fj



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