As a young girl growing up, PIANGO Programme Co-ordinator Laisa Vereti witnessed the resilience of her family and community during the varying seasons of her village in Korotolu, Moce in the Lau group.
“When a hurricane or cyclone was coming the men in the family were the first to warn and prepare the home and plantation,” Ms Vereti said.
“They would discover through the weather patterns and certain birds flying a certain way that would forecast danger.”
She said the men would then go through certain routine followed by the women in preparing for the cyclone.
“Shortening stems of the tavioka (cassava), strengthening of the lololo (root crop storage sheds) and stocking up on food rations with the smoking of fish and breadfruit collection were some of the activity,” she said.
These were some of the recollections Ms Vereti has as she prepares for a 10-day visit to Kiribati.
Ms Vereti is doing an on the ground pilot project with people mostly affected by climate change with one of the themes on community resilience.
PIANGO embarked on climate change research and advocacy after being spearheaded by the International Forum of National Platforms (IFP) four years ago to take the lead role in the region.
As a result after years of consultation, workshops and research a Climate Change tool kit was prepared with Ms Vereti arranging for papers to be written by experts on the various themes.
The five themes guiding her research will be on: Community Resilience & Livelihoods; Creation, Spirituality, Stewardship; Roles & Services of Nature; Human Rights and Climate Change; Rethinking the Pacific Way.
PIANGO board member Lorine Tevi has written on Creation-Spirituality-Stewardship, Suliana Siwatibau on Roles and Services of Nature, Tauga Vulaono on Community Resilience and Livelihoods, Laitia Tamata on the Human Rights angle and PIANGO Executive Director Emele Duituturaga on Rethinking the Pacific Way.
Ms Vereti left on Moday and returns in a fortnight.
The toolkit she is preparing will be used to facilitate the paradigm shift from “helpless victims” and passive recipients with a dependency mentality, complacency and fatalistic acceptance with the “poor me attitude” to a position of taking ownership.
Ms Vereti was a former high schoolteacher for 12 years with the Ministry of Education before she joined the NGO sector with FCOSS as a volunteer then Executive Assistant/Programme Officer involved in programmes at district and community levels in Viti Levu, Vanua Levu, Taveuni and Rabi working mainly with women and children.
She is a keen researcher having conducted national and community consultations, community focus group discussions and one to one interviews.
She recently conducted research for OXFAm Australia and the Fiji School of Medicine.
Last month she presented a paper at the second Pacific Islands Health Research Symposium held in Nadi.