By Santiago Joab Jr.
Below is a condensed version of Santiago’s report, for the full version in .pdf format click here.
This earth catching project has two parts to it, the first part was to seek evidence of climate change to the physical attributes of the island of Sapwuafik and interview people to see what they expect from the government. The other part is to find out what help have been given to the people of Sapwuafik by the government of the state of Pohnpei or the Federated States of Micronesia. This project was done in form of interviews, survey, GPS and pictures to show the impact of climate change to the island of Sapwuafik.
Sapwuafik Atolls are part of the Federated States of Micronesia in the eastern Caroline Islands. Sapwuafik is one of many atolls under Pohnpei States Administrations. Sapwuafik consist of 10 atolls and people only occupy Ngatik which is the biggest among the atolls and is located at the western end. The atolls are vegetated primarily by coconut trees and other typical atoll forest species. Sapwuafik has a population of approximately 700 people with about half under 16 so lots and lots of kids, aside from mostly kids half the population is either in Pohnpei or in other places. The people of Sapwuafik like most of the outer Islands live a very simple, peaceful life based on the sea and local foods such as giant swamp taro, bananas, and breadfruit.
Despite the fact that people of Sapwuafik contribute less to the climate change, they and all other atolls are seeing the impact of climate change through sea level rise to the land deformation and ways in which they live their daily lives. The effect of climate change can be seen all over the ten atolls, however effort is directed to Ngatik because it is where people occupied. On the atoll of Ngatik land deformations are apparent on the western side of the island, where the air strip is situated.
Today the governments of the State of Pohnpei , National government and other Non governmental agencies picked food security to be the first priority. In terms of food security – there has been some initiatives done to adapt to the rising sea level and these include the construction of artificial taro beds in the outer islands; provision of agricultural crops (seedlings), farming/gardening tools/equipment and training in the outer islands.
The government places infrastructure as the second priority. In terms of Infrastructure – awareness on development activities to take into account rising sea level – for example, coastal restoration through planting of trees instead of building sea walls, raised buildings, or building inland for coastal communities, etc.
There is a FSM Nationwide Climate Change Policy that was adopted in December 2009. This is the guiding document under climate change and the National Government is calling for all sectors to mainstream climate change in their development plans and strategies.
View of the People of Sapwuafik
People of Sapwuafik are aware of the fact that climate change which is contributing to the sea level rise affects shores and also taro patches. People experience many trees especially coconut trees are now being eroded (wash away). In the taro patches it is hard for people to plant taro due to the salt water caused by high tide and things will get worst. According to Sehpin a school teacher on Sapwuafik, he stated that from what he can remember the biggest one was about 6 years ago. We do have some every year but not like the previous one that is 6 years ago. High surge here in Sapwuafik is usually in winter (November to February). People of this island like everywhere are migrating and climate change is also contributing to their migration (Sehpin, 2011).
Climate change is an issue that is for everyone to consider regardless of size, color and power because the effect will be hard on the human race. It is unfortunate that those who contribute less to the climate change are seeing the effect first. Sapwuafik no exception like all atolls in the Pacific are seeing and feeling the impacts of climate change through sea level rise and other disastrous means. Climate change was, is and will be affecting Sapwuafik’s physical geography and the people through erosion and flooding of the taro patches. However, it is in fact a positive outcome to know that people out there are aware and care of a small island like Sapwuafik. With the collective efforts from the government of the Federated States of Micronesia, the State of Pohnpei, Non Governmental Organization’s in the state of Pohnpei , all donating governments and every one helping in any way and size are making sure that people of Sapwuafik will have a place to call home in many years to come.
Environmental Protection Agency. (2006). Disaster Assesments. Pohnpei: EPA.
Ehmes, C. (2011, January). Project Manager. (S. J. Jr., Interviewer)
Honorable, C. E. (2011, January). Leiutenant Governor. (S. J. Jr., Interviewer)
Sameul, S. (2011, January). Airline Agent. (S. J. Jr., Interviewer)
Santos, L. (2010, January). Acting Mayor. (S. J. Jr., Interviewer)
Sehpin, T. (2011, January). Classroom Teacher. (S. J. Jr., Interviewer)