IOM in the North Pacific at a Glance

IOM established its first office in the region in Majuro in May 2009. The opening of the sub-regional Head Office in Pohnpei followed a few months later. The FSM has been a member state since December 2011 and the RMI acceded to membership on 26 November, 2013.

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PRESS RELEASE

For immediate release – June 11, 2014

Planting Pandanus to Protect Pohnpei

World Environment Day is designated by the United Nation’s as the ‘people’s day to do something positive for the environment. It is celebrated each year in over 100 countries around the world. Pohnpei planned a unique collective effort to honor World Environment Day 2014.

Thursday, June 5th was a bright sunny day in the municipality of U – a perfect day for action. 250 elementary school-children in U joined together with the five women’s organizations that make up the U organization for women (UOW), and friends from the Conservation Society of Pohnpei (CSP), USDA Natural Resources Conservation Services, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Island Food, Australian Embassy representatives and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to plant over 300 pandanus along the coast of U. The UOW prepared 792 pandanus branches for World Environment Day planting commenced on WED and continued into the weekend. The UOW initiated this effort and hopes to plant a total of 1,829 pandanus along the coast line over the next year. The collective effort spurred by World Environment Day accomplished 43% of the total effort needed to protect the coast line in U. The U municipal government identified the need when Officer Danis Kilmete conducted a survey in early 2014 to establish the quantity of pandanus needed to further strengthen the shoreline. It was the women, school-children, and other volunteers that took the next step to accumulate and plant the necessary pandanus as a celebration of WED and also a demonstration of what an empowered community can achieve in the way of climate change adaptation. IOM and CSP helped with coordination and implementation as requested by UOW. CSP, USDA NRCS, Island Food, and the Australian embassy also gave short presentations to school children and other participants to ensure they understood how planting pandanus strengthens the coast from climate change impacts, such as – coastal erosion, storm surge, and wave inundation.

“Together 7 of us planted 30 pandanus! We planted them to hold the soil, to protect the Pohnpei shoreline from big waves, and of course to eat the delicious fruit” – Darren Cliffe, 8th grade student, Saladak Elementary School

Pandanus is embedded in the history and culture of the Pacific islands; it is a traditional food, a source of raw materials for handicrafts, and is especially important on smaller islands and atolls due to its saltwater resistant qualities.  It provides material for housing, components of medicine, and in some cultures was even the primary source of clothing.  It can also help reduce coastal erosion.


Analysis:

Shore maintenance and protection is the largest anticipated adaptation cost associated with sea level rise; the UNFCCC estimates costs in 2030 of 5 – 13 billion per year assuming 50 years for planning. Low-lying countries including: Maldives, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Tokelau, and Tuvalua are some of the most vulnerable nations to current and anticipated climate change impacts. However, most governments and international agencies do not invest in preventative measures. Instead they wait for seawalls, roads, and buildings and airport runways to be swallowed by the ocean in a severe storm or other wave event and then proceed with funding protection measures. In the World Bank 2010, Economics of Coastal Zone Adaptation to Climate Change, they found most of the world’s countries engage in reactive adaptation to coastal zones.

The modern challenges posed by climate change are breathing new life into the pandanus plant not only as a focal point of tradition, but also as an agent for environmental protection and stabilization in the future.  Recently, resilience building projects have focused on soft coastal protection interventions, such as planting.

Near shore planting of mangroves and pandanus are among the most commonly cited examples of cheap, safe, and effective shoreline protection measures according to the University of the South Pacific (USP) Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development (PACE). The choice of pandanus ensures a way for communities to celebrate traditional knowledge and skill; improves food security; and protects the coast.  Traditionally communities in Hawai’i; the Marshall Islands; the Federated States of Micronesia, and others have practiced this technique to combat erosion.


IOM Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia

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