Empowering Vanuatu communities to combat the effects of climate change together

Learn how an Australian volunteer supported a project aimed at exploring and promoting sustainable eco-based solutions to adapt to climate change.

Acknowledging the rapidly changing and increasingly complex global humanitarian environment, the Australian Volunteers Program has committed to increasing volunteer placements in climate change, disaster resilience and food security 

To support the development of new partnerships and to document outcomes in this area, the Australian Volunteers Program commissioned CoLab, a Fiji-based development consultancy, to develop a Pacific Climate Research report. The following case study was developed as part of this report. 

SPREP partnered with the Governments of Fiji, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu in 2017 to implementhe Pacific Ecosystems-based Adaptation to Climate Change (PEBACC), five-year project that aims to explore and promote Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) options for adapting to climate change.  

In 2018, Australian volunteer Margaret Morris was recruited though the Australian Volunteers Program to help support SPREP on the PEBACC project.  From 2018 t2020 Margaret was involved in two volunteer assignments to build capacity within the community and local government to understandimplement and promote urban ecosystem-based solutions.  

Margaret supported SPREP to implement an urban garden and tree nursery demonstration plots for the Ministry of Forestry (MoF) and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) to improve urban food security and restore urban forests and waterways. Margaret trained local community leaders to establish their own gardens and helped identify target communities for building awareness on the importance of sustainability and food security. 



SPREP saying no to plastic in 2018 Photo: Supplied
SPREP saying no to plastic in 2018 Photo: Supplied
Margaret Morris
Margaret Morris, Australian volunteer Photo: Supplied

Margaret developed relationships with local leaders to ensure the urban garden project would be embraced by the wider community, bringing together a diverse range of stakeholders to agree on a shared strategy. The acceptance and promotion of the urban garden project by the Paramount Chief encouraged other local community Chiefsresulting in seventeen additional communities committing to establishing their own urban garden.  

Margaret supported community leaders to organise meetingspublic events and facilitate ecosystem restoration activities relating to the restoration of the lower Tagabe river in Port Vila, such as river clean ups and the planting of native trees.  

Margaret also developed and maintained partnerships with local, regional and international organisations including Department of Environmental Protection and Conservation (DEPC), Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD), Department of Forestry (DOF), Department of Water (DOW), SHEFA, Port Vila Municipal Council (PVMC) and regional and local organisations.  

Forming strong connections across organisations and into the community improved the quality, inclusivity and accessibility. Raised and narrow planting beds were built to allow people who use a wheelchair to access the gardens. Elderly people in the community were encouraged to get involved in developing the gardens and were directly impacted by improved water, food and energy sources provided. Local school sites were considered to provide education on food security and sustainability from an early age.  

Beach in Vanuatu
A beach in Port Vila, Efate. Photo: Darren James
Pineapple stall at a local market, Port Vila, Efate.. Photo Darren James
Pineapple stall at a local market, Port Vila, Efate.. Photo Darren James

Margaret supported the community and organisations to identify innovative solutions that increased the sustainability of the garden. Through relationships with the technical education sector, she was able to facilitate the introduction of innovative ecosystem-based solutions including biomass briquettes, a bio-fuel substitute to coal and charcoal. 

Landowners and the local communities were engaged and empowered to successfully conduct a trial in which an invasive hyacinth species was converted into sustainable biomass briquettes. The Vanuatu Institute of Technology (VIT) provided equipment to help with the processwhich resulted in the successfully burning of the briquettes in a charcoal burner. The production of biomass briquettes could provide an alternative fuel source for the communities of Port Vila, which could lead to a change in thinking around organic waste as a valuable alternative resource for fuel. The invasive species office is now working with the department of energy to develop this idea. 

In just two years, Margaret was able to build strong relationships with local government, organisations and the community to effect change by empowering the communities to take ownership to improve food security and to find a cost-effective, sustainable ecosystem-based-solution that could help reduce the impacts of climate change.