The CRI team in Tonga has been spending a lot of time visiting communities, talking about and documenting community livelihoods, local ecosystems and values. Sharing this information requires the team to build relationships with communities. Over time, feelings of trust and mutual purpose are developed. The time the team puts into a community is often acknowledged with generosity on the part of the community.
When the Tongan team recently paid a third visit to the small community of Koloa in the Vava’u island group, to finalise the community’s Community Resilience Profile, community members celebrated their relationship by catching the local delicacy, a wondrous-looking crustacean called a ‘valo’.
They rarely catch this species, as it is very difficult to obtain, due to its habit of burrowing deep under the sand. It is only eaten on special occasions, such as when requested by the king when he visits the island. The valo can be found in other villages, but only rarely and not as abundant as in the village of Koloa, even if it is difficult to find and catch. The community so values their local delicacy that they asked for a photo of it to appear on their Community Resilience Profile, as a symbol of their community.
Decline in fish stocks is one of the issues facing communities that the teams are documenting, and the CRI programme is addressing. Some communities have set up protected areas to reduce overfishing, but there are also other issues that communities face, such as rising sea temperatures, destruction of coastlines due to weather and human activities, and marine pollution. In closely monitoring local ecosystems, the teams are able to steer communities towards resilience-building activities that will protect their local resources.
Climate Resilient Islands is a New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade initiative, implemented by Live & Learn Environmental Education, with funding provided by the New Zealand Government.