Traditional Material Important: POCCA Community Consultation in Vanuatu

12 September 2023

Despite being hit by two consecutive cyclones at the start of 2023, Vanuatu continues to show a strong sense of resilience in terms of adapting to the impacts of climate change.

Their resilience is evident in their acknowledgment that a central part of dealing with the changes is maintaining a very strong connection to the land and what it gives.

These were the sentiments shared by communities in Vanuatu to The University of the South Pacific’s Pacific Ocean and Climate Crisis Assessment (POCCA) team during their visit from August 13-19.

Participants of the community engagement in Santo and Port Vila openly share how they continue to rely on traditional materials for their housing and medicine.

This was evident when POCCA team members observed the numerous amounts of thatched roofs currently present at the communities they visited.

Despite the introduction of modern materials, they feel that the traditional material, that is still in abundance, is a cheaper option, easy to build, able to keep occupants cool during the summertime and strong enough to withstand any heavy downpour.

Community members emphasized how these materials needed to be protected for the sake of the future generation.

Despite their positivity, the people that the team spoke to have admitted extreme weather patterns such as the two cyclones that hit early this year are starting to appear more often.

However, they feel that these are a direct result of human activity to which small Pacific Island States such as Vanuatu are becoming an innocent victim.

When it comes to food, this is only affected during any cyclone, however, having the ability to bounce back and rely on whatever they have grown is critical to their survival.

Community members of Santo and Port Vila are proud of what they currently have, however, they fear that their traditional materials might not last long if human activities continue to have an impact on their existence.

Vanuatu is the fifth country visited by the USP POCCA team after Fiji, Tuvalu, Nauru and Kiribati.

The POCCA Project is a three-year project funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), New Zealand co-partnered by the Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development (PaCE-SD), University of South Pacific (USP) and the Macmillan Brown Centre for Pacific Studies, University of Canterbury (UC) under separate grant funding arrangements.