Posted inStory / Vanuatu

A Vanuatu community group is taking ‘ownership’ of responses to natural disasters

Santo Sunset Environment Network is building a community disaster and climate change committee to take local ownership of the disaster response in Vanuatu

When it comes to natural disasters, Vanuatu is one of the most vulnerable places on earth.

Around 75 percent of their population is exposed to two or more natural hazards, such as cyclones, earthquakes, landslides and volcanic eruptions.

In 2017, people on the Island of Espiritu Santo decided to take more control over disaster management in their community.

On the island’s western coastline locals established the Santo Sunset Environment Network.

Allan Taman is the organisation’s chairman.

“We are building up what we call community disaster and climate change committee to take local ownership of the disaster response,” he told Pacific Prepared.

Under Vanuatu’s customary law, each village is responsible for managing the local environment.

The Santo Sunset Environment Network has been working with local villages to train environmental rangers.

“We are using local ways to help each other to cope,” Taman said.

There are now 35 rangers specially trained to local chiefs with their work of managing biodiversity and protecting the environment.

The network has also worked to help villages develop emergency management plans to respond to disasters.

In 2020 Cyclone Harold slammed into Vanuatu, the category five system causing widespread damage.

The Santo Sunset Network swung into action.

“It destroyed 75 percent of homes, 52 of school infrastructure, and compromised the food and water security of the whole area,” Taman said.

“After cyclone Harold we moved more than ten thousand pieces of roofing parts from unaffected communities to those that lost all their roofs,” Taman said.

But Allan Taman is concerned locals can only do so much.

“It is time for world leaders to wake up to how much they are harming us by not stopping greenhouse gas emissions.”

“They keep talking about their economy, well what about our lives? We didn’t cause this problem, but we are paying,” Taman said.

This story was originally published at ABC on 01 April 2022, reposted via PACNEWS.

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