Submitted by: Tuo Community Based Organisation
Implemented country: Solomon Islands
Title: Don’t Let Tuo Sink!
Tuo is a small community in the Reef Islands belonging to the province of Temotu in the Solomon Islands. More than 1,000 people live in Tuo, mostly farmers and fishermen. The women gather fruit and cultivate vegetables. The rising sea level caused by climate changes is a threat to their traditional way of living and the livelihood of the villagers. The government, which is far away, has nearly no idea of the needs of the people in Tuo. No help is to be expected from the government. This is why community development worker and freelance journalist Lawrence Nodua has become active on behalf of the needs of the people in Tuo. The oldest of seven, Lawrence is used to being in charge, to listen and to reconcile. He founded the Tuo Community Based Organisation and became the spokesman of the villagers. Together with the local population he is documenting the problems on the island to find solutions and to inform government agencies of the plight of the people so the world will wake up to the fact that the village of Tuo might soon be disappearing. His project has received support by UNESCO.
The people from Tuo keep being amazed. Things are changing year after year and faster and faster. They can remember the time when life was predictable and foreseeable, when nature was intact, when fishing grounds were rich, when harvests yielded good crops and when social structures where stable. Especially the older people are distressed. Lawrence Nodua was willing to listen to their stories and to make changes measurable by creating flashback histories. In the beginning people didn’t trust him at all. Some of them believed that the project would receive financial support and that they were automatically entitled to help. But Nadua kept asking questions, pointed questions concerning many topics, privately as well as in public discussions. Questions concerning the relationship between the environment and daily life, questions about traditions, legends, customs, faith, and religion, questions about traditional resources such as vegetable gardening, building canoes from trees, fishing, etc. The results were shocking: Changed water currents, rising water temperatures, dying coral reefs and sea cucumbers, fewer fish, bad harvests, etc.
The stories relate the villagers’ sheer despair. Community leader John Selwyn Nokali: “I no longer have any control over my people. Our culture and our traditions are crumbling, as is our previously intact nature.” Fisherman John Akeso: “Twenty years ago I would catch a canoe full of fish within one hour. Today I catch 2 to 3 fishes in a whole day.” Mary Nogonyigi, an elderly village woman: “Breadfruit harvests are getting worse and worse. Our livelihood is disappearing.“ Sailor Palusi Blind Bato: “In former times I was able to get my bearings in the water by looking at the currents. Today that will only confuse you.” Jessie Sakinga, an elderly mother: „Until the 1990s the well water tasted good. Then it started tasting acidic. Could that be from the rising water level?“ Chris Low, a community leader: “Soil erosion used to happen very slowly. In the 1990, however, it became obvious. It is caused by the change of tides.” Nodua gives people a chance to speak their piece. His report is supposed to stir people up. He recently foundedan NGO called OceansWatch Solomon Islands to be in a better position to help. But he needs help as well and is hoping to get it through the Energy Globe Platform.
“Be there to serve others.”