Issue No. 45/2020 – Monday, 12 October 2020 (Kitiona Tausi)
Tuvalu is one country of the world that is prone to natural disasters and especially the impacts of climate change. With a land area of only 26 square kilometers and a total population of about 12,000, Tuvalu has been in the forefront in the fight against climate change and especially in the international arena.
The current government of Hon. Kausea Natano and the past governments and especially of the Rt. Hon Enele Sosene Sopoaga said “we will not give up; we will continue to fight for the survival of our people”.
All the islands in Tuvalu are losing land because of coastal erosion and government has prioritized the protection of the islands from the impacts of climate change.
One island community on the capital, Vaitupu can no longer anticipates the loss of its community property to the sea and thus has proceeded to work on a project that would protect the land where the property stands on to ensure the property is saved.
The property the community is trying to protect is the community hall (Kainaki II Falekaupule). It is a very important building according to Tuvalu culture. It is the center of the community where community meets and make regulations and policies and decisions. It is also where the community meets for festivities and celebrations. The building stands of not more than 20 meters from the shoreline to the ocean side.
As seen in the architectural design above, the project is only for the part on the foreground, the seawall and the green park, but is quite at a substantial cost. The project has started for a few weeks now and is progressing well according to the leader of the community, Dr. Tapugao Falefou.
I had the opportunity to visit the community at work yesterday afternoon and could see the ambition of the men, women, youths and the spirit of unity and determination in them.
Vaitupu community used to claim that a member of the community has two hearts, meaning that they can do more than anybody else from any other community. This claim is proven in the community’s daily life and their contributions to the community.
In any community in Tuvalu, there are two buildings that a community should have, a community meeting hall and a church building. It was in its preparation for the EKT’s General Assembly held on Vaitupu in 2016, that Vaitupu completed simultaneously two big projects, the refurbishment of its old church building on the island of Vaitupu and a new community hall, Kainaki II on the capital. The projects were financed by the community itself from their own fundraisings activities.
This time, the community undertakes a much bigger project which involves sophisticated engineering work, the Kainaki II Seawall Project. This project is considered to be the biggest community project ever to be initiated in Tuvalu. So when I asked Mr. Tapugao Falefou about the cost of the project, he said the community has raised about $200,000 for the project but he now estimates that it could costs a much bigger amount.
When I asked him as to how the community can secure enough funds for the project, he said that the community will try its best to find ways to secure the additional funding required. He hopes to try submitting requests to overseas donors and funding agencies as well as approaching government for assistance.
He said. “because it’s a big project and funding remains to be a problem, the deadline for the completion of the project cannot me determined at this time, but I am sure we will be able to complete the project sooner or later.
The Vaitupu community has recruited 20 workers from the main island of Vaitupu to work on the project and the project is under the supervision of Mr. Seti Safega, a member of the workers from the island. The community on the capital is assisting the work. Two engineers, Mr. Tekita Neemia and Mr. Panama Talaapa of the community on the capital provide the technical and engineering advice.
As a community project, the work is voluntary and the 20 workers from the island are accommodated at the Kainaki II Falekaupule and they look after themselves in terms of their maintenance, probably with financial assistance from the community. There are also times the women of the community on the capital provide food for the workers.
During recess time, the elderly men discusses the challenges faced by the work as well as discussing the progress of the work and offer advices.
Although the elderly men are not directly involved in the work, they are present at the site to give support to the workers. It is our cultural belief that in any work or any project in the community, elders are required to be present at the site as a mean of providing support to the workers as well as an inspiration to the workers.
Other island communities on the capital wish that the project is successful.