In the midst of the growing economic challenges posed by the global COVID-19 pandemic, a small village in the province of Tailevu is fighting to mitigate the ever increasing impacts of climate change on their community. 

Kumi Village is home to about 100 families and for many years had been grappled with the effects of rising sea level. In 2016, Government, through the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) funded the construction of a seawall for the village to help villagers adapt to the effects of this climate crisis – something which they have had to live through daily. 

This was in line with the relevant provisions in the Paris Agreement. Under Article 7 (4) of the Agreement, parties to the Agreement are urged to recognise that the current need for adaptation is significant and that greater levels of mitigation can reduce the need for additional adaptation efforts, and that greater adaptation needs can involve greater adaptation costs. 

Recently, nearby surroundings of the village had been frequently flooded due to the inundation of seawater inland.

To help mitigate this, more than 200 villagers of Kumi, including children as young as three-years-old took to the shores of the village yesterday to plant more than 1500 mangrove seedlings. 

The Turaga ni Yavusa o Yasa of Kumi Village, Ilaitia Ravasakula, joined by other village elders led yesterday’s program. Village headman Mr.Timoci Ravasakula said although the planting of the mangrove was a long-term mitigating factor, it would still help save their village in the years to come. 

“It has been almost five years since we have had our seawall, but today we have started to see things that we never used to experience before,” Mr Ravasakula said. 

“At present when it rains heavily, our village boundaries are usually flooded and nearby surroundings of the village shores that is not protected by the seawall are usually inundated with seawater causing soil erosion and damage to trees and other resources. 

“A lot of coconut trees in these areas had been damaged and washed out to sea because of this.” 

He said because of this, the village did not want to wait for any assistance from Government and opted to take the lead in the fight against the global climate crisis. “The sea here in front of the village used to have a lot of resources that many of our ancestors used to live on, today, that has changed immensely. 

“Today we don’t get what our ancestors used to get from the sea which was why we thought to start planting mangroves. 

“We’re also doing this for our children.” Mr Ravasakula has urged other villages in the country faced with the same issue to replicate what they have done and not depend on any aid. 

“We hope that other villages in the country will learn from this to not always depend on Government for everything. We need to start doings things on our own first. 

Fiji’s climate champion to the United Nations 23rd Conference of Parties (COP23) on Climate Change in Bonn, Germany and Minister for Rural and Maritime Development and Disaster Management Hon.Inia Seruiratu said for the people of Kumi, the mangrove planting program was not only a village project, but linking what they had done to the Paris Agreement. 

“It’s about taking ownership of global issues and of course with global warming, we need to take responsibility as well,” Hon.Seruiratu said. 

“In the Paris Agreement, two key issues are adaptation and mitigation and in this village through the assistance of Government we’ve had a seawall which was completed in 2016.

That is adaptation. “For us we need to contribute as well, so this project is a mitigation project where we are taking ownership because in the Paris Agreement – more mitigation means lesser adaptation in the future and this is about our future generations as well.” Minister Seruiratu also emphasised the mangroves planted today would be of great benefit to the villagers of Kumi. 

“Mangroves play an important role in biodiversity which is linked to food security and not only that. It is also important in battling rising sea level and soil erosion. “For us we want to take ownership and take the lead. 

“More villages are requesting for seawall and Government continues to build seawalls, but for us it’s not just about building seawalls, it’s about natural solutions as well. We need both to complement each other to achieve sustainability in the long term.” 

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