Island and Ocean Ecosystems
17 November 2016, Port Vila, Vanuatu - A baseline assessment of key terrestrial and
marine environments around Tanna Island has commenced early this month by the
Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) through the Griffith
University of Australia in order to understand the status of the natural resources and how the
communities use these resources.

The assessment referred to as Ecosystem and Socio-economic Resilience Analysis and Mapping (ESRAM) aims to provide a holistic understanding of the linkages between ecosystem health, vulnerability and resilience in the context of both climate and non-climate related drivers of change.

The findings and recommendations of the assessment will guide the activities of the Pacific Ecosystem Based Adaptation to Climate Change Project (PEBACC) Project in Vanuatu.

The PEBACC Project is a five year initiative implemented by SPREP in partnership with the governments of Fiji, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. The Project focusses on strengthening and protecting the role of natural ecosystem services to enhance resilience to climate change. In Vanuatu, the PEBACC project sites are Port Vila and Tanna Island.

As part of the initiation of the ESRAM assessment on Tanna this month, key representatives on the island including the provincial government, chiefs and community leaders came together to learn about the ecosystem-based adaptation approach, and share their local knowledge to support the work of the project on the island.

Tanna Island Vanuatu   Stuart Chape
Tanna Island, Vanuatu. Photo: © Stuart Chape 

Speaking at the workshop, Vanuatu's Country Manager for the PEBACC Project, Mr Dave Loubser, emphasised the value of strengthening ecosystems.

"Nature-based solutions focus on retaining, for as long as possible, viable ecosystems and the services that they deliver to communities and islands."

"If you allow the degrading factors to continue then you are undermining the resilience and the capacity to adapt by the communities. For example, if you allow deforestation to continue and the loss of water shed values and water quality then immediately you've removed a critical resource which regardless of climate change is going to have severe negative impacts on communities," Mr Loubser added.

PEBACC's Tanna Project Officer, Mr Allan Dan who is supporting the field work on the ground spoke highly of kastom practices or traditional ways of living on the island. "Kastom should be preserved and encouraged to assist communities adapt to climate change."

"On Tanna, there are kastom ways of protecting our environment and there are sustainable practices in farming that communities must retain. This is our way of life that we need to hold on to or bring back to help us adapt to the changes that our environment is experiencing." Mr Dan explained.

Vanuatu's Ministry of Climate Change representative, Ms Rebecca Iaken said the ESRAM study will be beneficial to the future of Tanna island.

"Data developed by the ESRAM assessment will complement a baseline study being undertaken by the World Bank. These studies will provide Tanna with a strong base from which to make decisions regarding development on the island." Ms Iaken said.
TannaParticipantsParticipants of the workshop on Tanna island, Vanuatu. Photo: SPREP

Tanna island is one of the most fertile islands in Vanuatu and produces kava, coffee, peanuts, copra, and other fruits and vegetables. However, there are pressures that present challenges for the island and these include:
- Poor farming practices on Tanna leading to severe erosion with negative implications for coastal villages and ecosystems.
- Rapid population growth raising concerns about increased pressure on the land and its resources.
- Environmental and social impacts of tourism development.
- Land degradation as a result of increased human activity and settlement.
Tanna has a rich biophysical environment which supports a number of threatened and endemic species, including the critically endangered capoxylon palm and eight endemic plant species.

The Tanna ESRAM report will be released in 2017.

The PEBACC project is funded through the International Climate Initiative (IKI). The German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) supports this initiative on the basis of a decision adopted by the German Bundestag.

For more information about the PEBACC project in Vanuatu contact Mr. Dave Loubser, PEBACC Vanuatu Country Manager at [email protected]