Reflections on Kiribati from CEO Christine Pollard

Back in Fiji, after a week in Kiribati. A week that has left me with a lot of thoughts and feelings…

With support from the Australian Government, Action on Poverty (AOP) and Foundation for the South Pacific Kiribati (FSPK) are partnering on a water and food project on Aranuka Island, one of the many coral atoll islands in the Kiribati group. Kiribati is one of the poorest countries in Oceania, and one of the most affected by climate change.

Beautiful but tough

Aranuka is smack bang on the equator. Day and night time temps hover around 36 degrees, so yep, it’s hot. There is no power beyond the solar cells, so no fridges or fans, just a little light at night. There’s a little internet in one spot on the island (as of two weeks ago!), no mobile coverage and one payphone.

A small plane comes in a few times a week, but is often cancelled. Small planes are like buses in lots of parts of the Pacific – they are a metaphoric and actual lifeline to the outside world. This is a very beautiful place but it is a tough environment.

A changing climate

Villagers live simply here, and they have done for hundreds of years. The people of Kiribati feel connected to the sea – it has provided for them and been good to them.

But rising sea levels and climate change mean that water sources, which have been clean and good, are now brackish and unsafe to drink, and no good for gardens.

Rains, which were predictable and plentiful and filled wells and tanks, have changed a heap in the last five or so years, and there hasn’t been any decent rain for that time.

The challenge of food security

Food variety and quantity is pretty limited on Aranuka. The staples are fish, rice, breadfruit, some pumpkin and papaya.

AOP’s and FSPK’s water and food project aims to address the need for clean water, and a better variety and quantity of food via veggie gardens. FSPK and the local council have trained the community in how to make a nursery and gardens, how to compost, and how to prepare and cook veggies. AOP has provided technical and financial support.

The community has literally dug in by digging the trenches for the water pipes from the water sources to the simple water pumps. I shook my head many times on this trip when I thought about how much work this was, in 36 degrees heat. But this means families now have water right at their doorstep to use for drinking, washing, and irrigation.

Picking up the pace

The momentum for the project is growing and there are literally gardens popping up everywhere!

People realise they can do it when they see their neighbours doing it. With the support of FSPK and the council officers, the free seeds provided, and good water – it’s possible!

I saw so many gardens and water pumps that I lost count. These were on the main track/road around the island. People came up to us at different times to invite us to come and see their gardens!

I was gobsmacked to see the juggernaut effect of the project.

Final thoughts

The people on Aranuka have a very small environmental footprint. They don’t want a lot and don’t have a lot. They don’t waste a thing – everything is used and reused and repurposed. The community is generous with all they have and they opened their hearts to me.

I felt a strong desire to right the wrongs of climate change for and with them. I thought about my own environmental footprint. I felt happy to see that life was made a little easier, especially for women. I was relieved to see kids who are well and not sick from bad water.

Like I said, a lot of feelings and thoughts.

We are funding this project again in 2018/19 and I am intrigued to see what happens next in Aranuka. The energy and will from the community and council is there, and Action on Poverty will be there too.

Donate now to help vulnerable communities in Kiribati access clean water and grow food.

 

Sustainable Development Goals

      

      

 

This project is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).

 

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