There is a flurry of activity outside the newly renovated Mama’s Cooperative on Aniwa Island in Vanuatu’s Tafea Province. Three months after Tropical Cyclone Pam devastated Vanuatu, the women of Aniwa have taken over the operations of the local cooperative, the first shipment food and household items received, stocked, priced and on sale.
Aniwa is one of 12 communities in six provinces participating in the joint United Nations, US$2.9 million Vanuatu Community Resilience project, implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). The project aims to build on the existing capacity and strengthen the resilience of the people of Vanuatu to the adverse impacts of natural disasters. UNDP is responsible for the disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation and governance components, while UNICEF and FAO are responsible for Water and Sanitation (WASH) and improving food security.
As part of improving resilience, UNDP is also assisting the Government of Vanuatu in the long-term development of a trade policy and working with the Department of Cooperative, to support pilot projects with the Tanna Tourism Mall, Aniwa’s Mama’s Cooperatives and West Ambae Poultry Farm.
In Aniwa, the UNDP and Department of Cooperative partnership has supported the commercial needs of the whole island of Aniwa with the supply of consumer goods and serve as the main center of trade for other local resources such as orange, fish and sandalwood which are the main cash generating resources for the livelihood of the people of Aniwa.
Lela Largie from Isavai community on Aniwa, in Tafea Province is the store Manager of Aniwa Mamas Cooperative said in the past, garden produce and marine resources were used only for subsistence purposes.
“Today we have a facility or central place or location to sell our crops and marine catches. This has helped supplement the community diet and to a greater extent generate income and cash flow in our community to sustain our livelihoods,” said Ms. Largie.
“We now have 40 registered members of our cooperative and more members have shown interest to join in the near future. Given the success our cooperative we want to sincerely thank UNDP and other partners for supporting us and making our dream come true. We now feel more empowered in seeing the change in our community.”
Since 2011, the participating communities have benefited greatly through the interventions implemented in each of the sites under each component of the project. Through trainings and educational initiatives, communities are learning how to respond to and cope with natural hazards, prepare their own disaster preparedness and emergency plans, replant vegetation of coast lines and flood prone areas, identify safe houses and preserve food well ahead of any emergency.
Slowly rebuilding after Cyclone Pam, Hamish Ture, a community mobiliser on Aniwa Island said: “We lost our gardens, livelihood and shelters but we managed to save lives, which is more rewarding.”
The community identified an evacuation center prior to Tropical Cyclone Pam and people moved before it struck. Together with Care International and other partners such as Live and Learn Environmental Education (LLEE), UNDP has helped to set up local Community Disaster Committees in the 12 villages. These Committees have been instrumental in ensuring the preparation of villages ahead of Cyclone Pam, contributing to the low number (11) fatalities.
“Through the assistance from UNDP and training on disaster preparedness plans, we managed to mobilize the whole community of Aniwa on time to be prepared ahead of Cyclone Pam,” said Mr. Ture.
“One of the lessons Cyclone Pam has left behind is that, its legacy of putting to test the effectiveness of Vanuatu governance systems and its structures in response to its impact and to test proof the resilience of national institutional structures at all levels to meet the challenges before and the aftermath of Cyclone Pam,” said Cherol Ala, Director of Vanuatu’s Department of Local Authorities.