SMALL Island developing states around the world faces a range of specific development challenges, now complicated by the emerging adverse impacts of climate change in rising sea levels, more variable and unpredictable rainfall, and more intense extreme weather events.
According to a report from the Solomon Islands Water Sector Adaptation Project, shows that Some communities in Ontong Java, Reef Islands of the Temotu Province, Lau Lagoon of Malaita Province, Roviana Lagoon in the Western Province and Santa Catalina of Makira Province to name a few have already experienced their root crops, such as taro, dying due to salt water intrusion.
As the nation’s future depends on its capacity to adapt to and mitigate the impacts, Local capacity is also key.
Solomon Islands communities are exposed to a number of natural hazards, worsened by climate change, such as coastal erosion, sea level rise, drought, heavy rainfall and flooding.
The impacts are multiple and interconnected. For instance, there are communities living along the coastlines and on low lying islands/atolls who, due to rising sea levels, are facing increased coastal erosion, inundation and salt-water intrusion. This impacts their fresh water supplies, a serious problem, especially when communities depend on the groundwater sources for drinking.
These issues can also greatly affect food and land security, soil fertility and the livelihood of the community as a whole.
Furthermore, drought is a major hazard for communities that depend primarily on rainfall. When there is none or little water available, this greatly affects people’s health and impacts public health safety.
The most obvious reason is that Solomon Islands is situated in the tropical region prone to natural disasters. Our people, our places and our systems are rendered more vulnerable due to a weak economy, limited access to basic services, different levels of education and the isolation and fragmentation of islands.
The capacity for communities to survive natural hazards varies across the country, affected by these factors.
Hence, the climate and weather is shifting as rainfall patterns vary and are unpredictable with more intense heavy rain in a shorter period has caused flooding and landslides.
Not enough technical capacity and, often, financial limitations makes it challenging to implement programs addressing climate change.
A lack of public awareness and understanding of climate change is another barrier. Whilst, awareness and education programs for government, communities, schools, institutions are really important to building capacity and improved decision-making.
Recognizing the seriousness and urgency of addressing climate change impacts the establishment of a National Climate Change Policy 2012 – 2017 was an important step forward in supporting the implementation of adaptation in communities. The policy reflects the Government’s engagement in ensuring climate change initiatives are guided and implemented accordingly.
Relevant ministries such as the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management and Meteorology (MECDM), the Ministry of Mines, Energy, and Rural Electrification (MMERE), and the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock are supporting climate change adaptation programs such as of the Solomon Islands Water Sector Adaptation Project focused on securing sustainable water supplies, sanitation and hygiene and the Strongem Waka lo Community for Kaikai project which helped local communities manage climatic pressures on food production.
The Government is also investing in Automatic Weather Stations nation-wide, to collect data for weather forecasting and early warning systems, as well as awareness campaigns in both rural and urban communities, considered to be essential to disaster preparedness.
UNDP works with Solomon Islands Government ministries to implement adaptation programs like SWOCK, UN REDD, ‘Building Resilience of Health Systems in Pacific Island Least Developed Countries to Climate Change’ and SIWSAP. With support from global funds such as the Adaptation Fund and the Global Environment Facility – Least Developed Country Fund, these programs work at the national, provincial and community levels, rolling out new or improved infrastructure, providing trainings and building sectoral capacity.
These investments help protect the livelihoods of our communities to adapt to climate change impacts.