Adaptation to climate change in Nawairuku Village, Ra Province, Fiji

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Adaptation to climate change in Nawairuku village, Ra Province, Fiji Renee Currenti MA Candidate | Dr Tristan Pearce, Teresia Salabogi, Kini Salabogi, Luke Vuli, Prof. Roy Sidle, Dr James Ford Sustainability Research Centre | University of the Sunshine Coast

Study Area

ua Van vu Le

Nawairuku Village Nalawa, Ra, FIJI Population: 318 (est. 2017)

u Lev i t i V

Elevation: 51m


Location:17°38'15.52"S 178°12'51.66"E



This research documents and describes how people in a geographically remote location in Fiji are experiencing and responding to climate change. Specific objectives are: 1. Document the conditions that currently affect livelihoods of people in Nawairuku village 2. Characterise the adaptive strategies employed to manage and cope with these conditions 3. Describe factors that aid or constrain adaptation

Climatic and socio-economic stressors interact to affect the lives and livelihoods of people in Nawairuku. Agricultural productivity Extreme weather events damage agricultural land and destroy crop stocks


New farming practices such as commercialisation degrades soil quality reducing overall yields Health and well-being Extreme weather events pose risk to physical and mental health, and food security

RATIONALE The Pacific Islands region is widely regarded as a “hot spot” for global climate change. Biophysical changes have been recorded and are expected to continue, and accelerate, in the future. The risks of climate change are significant, challenging livelihoods, health and well-being, and food security. The research is distinct from other climate change impacts, vulnerability and adaptation research in the Pacific Islands region in that it focuses on people living in an interior village, whereas most previous research has been conducted with people living in urban areas in the coastal zone.

METHODS This research was structured by a Vulnerability Approach1 that considers vulnerability a function of how a community is exposed and sensitive to change as well as their capacity to adapt2.

Adaptation Needs and Options

Future Exposures and Sensitivities

Expected changes in Natural and Social Systems

Future Adaptive Capacity

Data were collected over a ten-week period in Nawairuku village including semi-structured interviews using open-ended questions and freelists (n=30), focus groups (n=2), participant observation, and analysis of secondary sources. The research was conducted with awareness of cross-cultural differences. Vanua research, considers and respects unique Indigenous Fijian values, protocols, knowledge and ways of knowing3. Approval for the research was granted by the Fijian Department of Immigration (#I7497899) and study protocols were approved by the Ethics Boards at the University of the Sunshine Coast (A/15/751) and University of the South Pacific.

Changing dietary preferences, imported foods, and rising living costs effect food security Built infrastructure Extreme weather events damage houses, community buildings, and water and power distribution systems


In some cases, shifted preferences of building styles and materials increase risk to harm (i.e. from cyclones)

Response • Engage in off-farm activities to diversify income • Draw on social networks • Equipment and food sharing

Response • Implement improved building standards to withstand future extreme weather events • Relocate houses from at-risk areas (hillslopes and near the river)

Aids and constraints • Strong motivation and initiative • Limited financial capital • Supportive social and kinship networks • Land ownership and tenure • Intergenerational experience with change • Steep surrounding land

Current Exposures and Sensitivities Current Adaptive Strategies


Response • Implement new farming techniques (crop-rotation, strategic land use) • Relocate agricultural plots from flood- and landslide-prone areas

INFLUENCING PRACTICAL ADAPTATION This research: • Highlights the complexity of the socialecological system to identify strategic policy entry points to increase resilience to future climate change • Describes recent changes in agricultural production and emphasises the need for sustainable management of the natural resource base • Expands the current narrative of climate change impacts, vulnerability and adaptation in the Pacific Island region to include the experiences of people living in the interior • Shows the need to understand and work with local belief systems to combine both tangible and intangible adaptation actions Want to know more? Scan here 1 Ford JD, Smit B 2004 A framework for Assessing the Vulnerability of Communities in the Canadian Arctic to Risks Associated with Climate Change. Arctic 57, 389-400 2 Smit B & Wandel J, 2006 Adaptation, adaptive capacity and vulnerability. Global Environmental Change 16, 282-292 3 Nabobo-Baba U, 2006 Knowing and Learning: An Indigenous Fijian Approach. Institute of Pacific Studies, University of the South Pacific, Suva, Fiji. All photos used with permission

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