Working towards a resilient community, Western Division, Fiji
In 2012, tons of rock and mud swept down the steep incline above the Tukuraki village, burying one house and a family of four as they slept inside. More than 50 percent of the village area was buried beneath the mud and debris. Villagers were requested to leave the site and many ended up living in makeshift homes close by Tropical Cyclone Evan (category-four) and later Cyclone Winston (category- five), damaged the remaining village. As a result, the Fiji Government through the Commissioner Western’s Office and the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) in consultation with the community, decided to relocate the village.
Financing of village infrastructure development was secured through the European Union and the Pacific Community (SPC) under the ‘Building Safety and Resilience in the Pacific (BSRP) project’, for ten new houses, a community hall (doubling as an evacuation centre), installation of a water supply system and an access road, as well as for risk management measures. Commissioner Western’s Office contributed to logistical and in-kind costs. Numerous sectors and the NGO Live and Learn Environmental Education contributed expertise which led to a holistic approach to addressing underlying vulnerability and increasing community resilience in this new village development.
Work was undertaken ‘behind the scenes’ on risk governance which provided the enabling environment to risk inform the Tukuraki village development projects. In this regards, the Pacific Risk Resilience Programme was able to support:
- Leadership: Commissioner Western Division championed a “risk informed” approach to development at the subnational level through risk informing the Western Division Development Plan, and sector corporate plans.
- Gender and Social Inclusion: Involvement from a new resilience officer post in the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation (MWCPA) ensured that safety, unity and inclusion were an integral part of assessment and planning. This identified multiple social issues and ways to address these (e.g. construction of safety barriers).
- Dedicated capacity: It helped establish a full-time senior government post dedicated to disaster and climate risk management within the Commissioner Western’s Office.
- Risk knowledge: The new post supported the development of a GIS knowledge platform used to apply risk information to guide Tukuraki site selection and planning.
- Risk informed community development: The new post collaborated with local government and partners to weave risk management into the Tukuraki community development plan. This also included strong participation of women to identify priority livelihood opportunities post-relocation.
- Risk screening of divisional development projects: Commissioners Western and Northern championed the decision that risk screening should be used across all four divisions of Fiji. This provided the policy basis for Tukuraki to be risk screened as a new requirement of the Western Division Development Board.
Three community consultations were undertaken to discuss relocation and site selection issues. Gender and social inclusion discussions were led by MWCPA. This identified multiple social issues and ways to address these (e.g. construction of accessible walkways for elderly). This also included strong participations of women to identify priority livelihood opportunities post-relocation.
GIS risk maps were used to identify a new site for relocation using the new GIS platform and relevant data from the Ministry of Agriculture. Divisional risk screening was used to identify risks to and from the project leading to additional funding for risk management measures such as retaining walls, cyclone resistant infrastructure; fire-breaks and backup water storage.
Gender and social inclusion were central to the relocation. The Tukuraki Women’s Group played a major role in the process of healing post-disaster and in planning for the relocation. During the MWCPA consultation they highlighted children’s safety concerns, accessibility issues and potential land issues.
Relocation of a high-risk village to a safer site using GIS risk maps to inform site selection. Risk management measures were a key consideration in project design, implementation and oversight.
Existing development procurement processes and regulations were built upon for incorporating risk
management measures. Development task forces such as those who oversee the design, implementation
and oversight of projects can be strengthened with the addition of dedicated climate change and disaster
risk management expertise.
Good risk governance lays a systematic foundation for risk informed development, including, political commitment and leadership, new resilient development capacity at the subnational level, a GIS knowledge system (providing risk maps for planners) and risk informing planning processes and tools (e.g. risk screening and community planning).
A multi-stakeholder, multi-sector, multi-voice approach to increasing community resilience. For example the participation of the new resilient development post from the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation ensured that key gender and social inclusion and protection issues were central to the relocation project.
Lessons learned from the Western Division are already being replicated in the Northern Division where there has been very rapid adoption of risk informed development by the Commissioner Northern Office driven by increased support from a new resilient development post. This further demonstrates the crucial role of dedicated CCDRM expertise embedded within development offices.