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USP academic presents climate change research

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Dr Lagi (second from left) with Pacific Island Participants at the workshop.

A research by an academic from The University of the South Pacific (USP) on Negotiating Indigenous Knowledge of Climate Change Adaptation and Laws and Practices in Tuvalu was presented at the Climate Change Conflict in the Pacific organised by the Toda Peace Institute in Tokyo Japan from 10 – 13th September 2019. 

Dr. Rosiana Lagi, USP Tuvalu Campus Director presented on the significance of weaving Indigenous Knowledge of Climate Change Adaptation & Laws – indigenous people take ownership of the climate change adaptation practice and this practice is supported by policies and laws to enhance and enforce its implementation.

The workshop was attended by close to 50 Policy Makers, Researchers and Practitioners from Japan, Oceania and the Global North.  It was an enriching 4 days of sharing stories, experiences and practices on how people are coping with the impacts of climate change and ways in which a global approach can help minimise the issues.

Dr. Lagi presented about Koga Puipui, a Tuvaluan Indigenous concept of conservation that was practiced in Funafuti before independence but was discontinued after independence in 1978.  She told of how prior to 1978, people would live on Fongafale islet for 6 months while Funafala islet was conserved and declared a ‘no take’ zone, to ensure the sustainability of coconuts. During this time, it was hoped that coconut trees would recover and there are specific rocks in between the islets indicating the ‘no take zone’.

After 6 months, the people would move to Funafala islet and conserve Fongafale and anyone found to disrespect the conservation area would be exiled from Funafuti. Following independence, more non-Funafuti people populated Funafuti and due to this, it was difficult to control the resource use and conservation, hence the discontinuation of the practice of Koga Puipui.

In 1996, the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) visited Funafuti, introducing the Locally Managed Marine Area concept, which is now woven with the concept of Koga puipui expanding the area of conservation to include the marine areas as well. 

According to Dr Lagi, this practice benefited the island because it meant food security from spillover from the conserved areas.  In addition, Environment, Conservation and Kaupule laws created by the Tuvalu Government in the 1970s and revised in 2008 enhanced this practice. 

Despite the restoration of biodiversity, there were tensions in the limited areas people could fish from and fertile land that people could cultivate traditional crops and vegetables.

Pukasavilivili one of the islets that has submerged due to sea level rise.

As such, people’s health is affected giving rise to non-communicable diseases and the cost of health. In 2018, the Tuvalu Government spent over AUD5M on medical referrals and the life expectancy is now 57.  In addition, some islets in Funafuti have submerged exposing the main island Fongafale to storm surges and coastal erosion.

However, USP’s Tuvalu Campus is now working with the Tuvalu community in research, education and awareness – investing on its people to take a holistic approach in mitigating and adapting to the impacts of sea level rise. 

Participants were told that one of the projects the Tuvalu Campus is involved in is the training of teachers so that they can develop more relevant curriculum and learning resources to enhance the teaching of indigenous knowledge that promotes sustainable survival skills; for instance weather forecasting and food preservation skills. 

Teachers in this programme also created Big Books that will be published in both the English and Tuvaluan language to ensure the transmission of this knowledge and the advancement of children’s literacy and critical thinking skills. 

More so, in collaboration with Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade (DFAT) and Live and Learn, the Campus has established a demonstration garden where students and members of the community can be modelled how to set up home gardens by using food cube tubs created by Biofilta and producing compost from local resources that they will make at the site.

Dr. Lagi commented that “since we are not leaving our islands, we need to learn to live sustainably so we can survive and thrive amidst sea level rise”.

As such, USP’s Tuvalu campus is taking a lead role in education and capacity building in Tuvalu with support and funding assistance from the Tuvalu Government and its development partners.

In her closing remarks at the workshop, Dr Lagi stated that a holistic approach needs to be taken globally for the fight against climate change. 

“People need to re-look and change their consumption behavior at the same time governments need to prioritise finding a global solution to reducing carbon emission and the impacts of climate change,” she said.

She concluded by reiterating Reverend Dr. Upolu’s eco-relational concept by saying that we are all related and our actions affect others existence, therefore, as eco-relational beings we need to work together in this fight otherwise we will all perish together.

“Saving Tuvalu means saving Oceania and the World, so let us all work together for our survival and future generation’s survival as well,” she stated. 

This news item was published on 24 Sep 2019 03:41:56 pm. For more information or any High-Res Images, please contact us on email

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