By Jamal Namo, Solomon Islands Development Trust
Children are a powerful agent of change in building a long term, sustainable and friendly environment for a resilient community. Solomon Islands Development Trust (SIDT) with its 34 years working in rural communities believes that Solomon Islands need a child-centered approach to planning for longer term change in Solomon Islands.
SIDT embarked on a project called Child-centered Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction (4CA) in two provinces, Makira and Central Islands provinces. The project is financially supported by PLAN International Australia.
The overall aim of the project is to ‘build safe and resilient communities in which children and young people contribute to managing and reducing the risks associated with changes in the climate.’
The project provides the opportunity for youth, children and communities to strengthen their resilience to the impacts of climate change through meaningful participation. Children’s unique experiences must be taken into account and provide spaces where they can express themselves on issues that affect them. SIDT designs programs, children and youth forums and other friendly spaces where children and youth express their views and experiences to leaders and the public.
Children and young people and the communities are assisted, through a series of training programs, to build their knowledge and skills to prepare and respond to risks and climate changes related impacts. They are trained in environmental management, first aid training, and disaster risk management. They assess risks at their schools and in their communities and identify appropriate actions to address them. They undergo school safety and simulation exercises and see how to respond to disaster. Drama is used to educate the wider community on climate change and reducing disaster risks. Activities relating to the protection of their environment are aligned to school programs and promoting tree planting.
SIDT firmly believes that strengthening the village governance structure is crucial in addressing issues of disaster and the increasing impacts of sea level rise. Therefore, SIDT uses community development tools and incorporates them with training. Modules on effective meeting, proposal writing, advocacy and networking, gender and development, basic financial management and an open forum are integrated and systematized into the training sequence. At the end of the project an open forum is hosted in which the community presents its community action plan, which is then translated into a project proposal document to invite donor, private sector and stakeholder collaboration. This is tailored towards building resilience through sustainability in exploring other available opportunities to support their endeavors.
One of the community participants expressed what he learned from the capacity building excises on conducting effective meetings as “eye opening for many of us and we learnt a lot of new things. We put into practice what we learnt and it worked. I recalled some village meetings that took couple of hours which at time concluded with pocket of people remaining.”
Awareness is employed as an essential tool to disseminate information on climate change related impacts and disaster risks to the wider community and schools. “Community education and awareness remains the best tool to inform the vulnerable communities” (The University of the South Pacific, 2011). Rural settings where illiteracy is high and accessibility to communication and technology and media is limited or even non-existent require continual awareness activities. The use of drama in awareness is most effective and targets the specific needs and reality of the community.
The Solomon Islands Development Trust (SIDT) has been working closely with government departments: the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO), Climate change division; the Ministry of Education and Human Resources; and the Ministry of Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs. Other NGOs are key partners as well, including the Solomon Islands Red Cross (SIRC), World Vision and other local community and faith based organizations and more so the targeted communities and schools.
- Formation of Village Disaster Risk Committees (VDRC). The National Disaster Risk Management Plan 2010 provides the institutional framework for addressing disaster risk in the country. SIDT works in partnership with the Red Cross and NDMO to establish VDRCs at the community level and develop their village disaster plans. So far three communities have developed their disaster plans and are working hard to pursue their priorities, with relevant government, NGO and private authorities for possible support.
- The development of a climate change supplementary resource book for grade 5. The resource material comprises a Learner’s book and a Teacher’s guide. The material aligns with the National Curriculum Statement and Primary Social Science Syllabus. The materials were distributed as a supplemental resource to schools in the project sites to support teachers and students.
- Tree planting and rehabilitation of forest. Children in the four schools and communities became involved in tree plantings near to the coastline to act as wind breakers and to prevent erosion and in planting of local species further inland. The willingness of the schools to integrate tree planting as extra-curricular activities has marked the unfolding of heightened consciousness around protecting and caring for the environment and is an adaptation initiative to climate change impacts.
Children are so central to their environment and can be an exemplary agent in building a better and resilient future. Thus, disaster education and readiness for children must be prioritized throughout the Solomon Islands. Community participation in adaptation and disaster risk reduction activities is remarkable for enabling mentorship for children and young people.
Adaptation to climate change for Pacific Island countries like Solomon Islands is something beyond adaptation to the impacts of climate change: it is about doing the right thing and making the right decision.
The University of the South Pacific (2011) Community-based adaptation to climate change: A review of good practices in the Pacific. Available at: http://eugcca.usp.ac.fj/Portals/0/Documents/Report-Good_Practices_CCA_Pacific-22Nov2011.pdf