This is Water: Portraits of Water from Tuwo Community, Temotu Province, Solomon Islands
After more than three hours of weaving courageously across the unforgiving waves of the open sea, three banana boats land on the beautiful shores of Fenualoa Island, where 531 people of the Tuwo Community call home. Stepping onto the beach, we are greeted with flower, songs, and coconut bread – an incredibly warm island community welcome.
The Tuwo Community is one of six pilot sites that will tackle pressing water and sanitation challenges faced today and in the future as the impacts of climate change become more severe. Through the Solomon Island Water Sector Adaptation Project (SIWSAP) – a four year initiative led by the Ministry of Mines, Energy, and Rural Electrification, Water Resources Division (MMERE-WRD) in partnership with Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management and Meteorology (MECDM), and Ministry of Health and Medical Services – Environmental Health Division, supported by UNDP with financing from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), Least Country Development Fund (LDCF). On 11 June 2015, a provincial inception workshop was held at the community hall and attended by more than 90 men, women, and children.
Despite its beauty and resourcefulness of the land and sea, water resources – vital to various aspects of life in Tuwo – are limited and degrading. Its atoll island geography, coupled with more frequent and longer dry spells, intrusion of saltwater into water points during king tides, and evidences of increasing diseases such as diarrhoea and red-eye, makes Tuwo vulnerable to water insecurity and climate change impacts. Together with national and international partners, Tuwo community is determined to enhance their resilience through increasing water storage capacity, protecting and managing existing water sources, and embarking on a sanitation campaign.
Water embodies many facets and functions, and central to the community life in Tuwo.
WATER FOR DRINKING AND COOKING
Drinking and cooking water in Tuwo is supplied through rainwater collected from the 12 communal water tanks. However, potable water is always limited; the water tanks often dry up, often up to five times a year. Most of the private homes in Tuwo have traditional thatched roofs, which are unsuitable for rainwater harvesting. Management and maintenance of water tanks is also a challenge, requiring stronger community management systems and awareness raising. Together with these capacity building efforts, the project will explore the installation of installing rainwater tanks in some of the public structures in Tuwo, such as the Tuwo Primary School and the newly constructed church that has a large corrugated iron roofing.
WATER FOR WASHING
There are about 14 wells across the four zones of Tuwo community – six of which are natural, and the remaining hand-dug. Although some are partially protected with cement coverage, majority of the wells are exposed with the water quality not suitable for drinking or cooking. Intrusion of salt water is also a concern, due to king tides and potential impacts of sea level rise. The project will test water quality including changes in salinity over time, and explore options of enhancing water quality through protecting wells.
WATER FOR SWIMMING
Swimming (or bathing) in Tuwo takes place at the beach and with water from the wells.
WATER FOR SANITATION
Very few toilet sheds (flushed by a bucket) exist as bushes and the sea are still common toilets for residents of Tuwo. Community members have observed that there may be increasing numbers of communicable water-borne diseases reported, such as diarrhoea, and skin diseases, as well as red eye with increasing flies due to poor sanitation. Changing sanitation behaviour will be a challenge, but with the possibility of increasing health risks due to population and/or climate change, Tuwo community is committed to exploring enhanced sanitation options, and together with other partners such as Rural Water, Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (RWASH) programme, sanitation campaigns and trial workable sanitation options will be supported.
WATER FOR PLAYING
The extended white sandy beach that stretches along the 2km length of the community is a lively play space for children - where they learn, exercise, and have fun. In the evenings, the beach transforms into a large canvas, and then into a beach flag field. “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.” The project plans to actively engage children and youth of Tuwo, which comprise more than 60 percent of the population.
Through the four year partnership between the Tuwo community, the Solomon Island government and UNDP, with support from GEF/LDCF through the SIWSAP project, we hope that the Portraits of Water in Tuwo will transform – into a more resilient and sustainable one, without losing the important community spaces and functions that water provides.