Adapting to climate change: a new start in Fiji

A growing number of houses in Fiji are under water. In cooperation with residents and ministries, relocation guidelines have now been developed that could serve as a model for the entire region.

Low-lying coastal regions are worst affected by rising sea levels resulting from climate change. On the South Pacific island of Ono, which belongs to Fiji, an entire village is at risk of becoming submerged. Some houses are already under water.

In the coming year, 40 residents from seven houses in the village of Narikoso will move to higher ground not far from the current site. Those being relocated include mayor Kelepi Saukitoga’s family of six. Narikoso is not an isolated case in the Pacific islands: studies have identified around 60 communities at risk from flooding in Fiji alone.

The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH has been helping the 15 governments of the Pacific Community in various ways to adapt to the consequences of climate change. On behalf of the European Union and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), GIZ worked with regional partners and the people affected to develop guidelines for the relocation of Narikoso.

In addition to identifying a new site for the houses, other priorities include safeguarding the drinking water supply and ensuring there is adequate grazing and arable land – or put simply, protecting people’s livelihoods despite changing climate patterns. GIZ is therefore supporting residents in planting more heat-resilient fruit and vegetable varieties and using innovative farming and irrigation techniques.

Fiji will officially present its set of guidelines on climate-induced relocations at the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn in early November. Lessons learned from the pilot village of Narikoso could benefit not just other Pacific islands, but the world as a whole.

The feature project ‘The Pacific islands are adapting to climate change’ offers an overview and further information on GIZ activities in the field. And a report published in the current issue of GIZ magazine akzente entitled ‘When paradise drowns’ shows how the villagers of Narikoso are facing up to the challenges of climate change.

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