Category Archives: Agriculture

His Excellency Anote Tong takes the stage in front before the other panelists, and the nation.

Wet weather fails to dampen public hearing spirits

Morning rain did not dampen the mood at Kiribati’s first-ever National High-Level Public Hearing on Climate Change on Friday, where leaders addressed the nation on the importance of everyone working together to build national resilience against climate change impacts.

‘Like us’ on Facebook to view pictures of the event

Official page of the National High-Level Public Hearing on Climate Change

Thankfully, despite the heavy rain overnight, the skies opened up to permit a late start to the event at Bairiki Square, which coincidentally or not translates from i-Kiribati to English as the “place where things happen”.

President Anote Tong addressed the nation at the National High-Level Public Hearing on Climate Change at Bairiki Square.

President Anote Tong addressed the nation at the National High-Level Public Hearing on Climate Change at Bairiki Square on Friday 19 April, 2013.

His Excellency Anote Tong was the first of 10 panelists to take the stage to address the crowded public square where he reiterated the importance of building both consensus and public understanding of climate change and climate change impacts in Kiribati.

“We must prepare the next generation to address the effects of climate change,” His Excellency said*.

These words were more dramatically reiterated in a moving youth performance by Kiribati Health and Family Association (KHFA) at half-time, where, in the skit, a young girl in tears asks her dad “Dad, what will happen to me and my Kiribati in 50 years time?*”

Next, second panel member Kiribati National Council of Churches Chairman Bishop Paul Mea took the stage.

Bishop Mea told the public, both in attendance and aired live across the country, that climate change was a social issue.

His Excellency Anote Tong takes the stage in front before the other panelists, and the nation.

His Excellency Anote Tong takes the stage in front of other panelists and before the nation.

Human interference continued to contribute to the impacts of climate change, Bishop Mea continued, citing Tarawa causeways Nanikai and Teaoraereke as well as the Dai Nippon contributing to the loss of some of the nation’s islets.

Leader of the Opposition Party (Karikirakean te I-Kiribati Party) Dr Tetaua Taitai next acknowledged climate change as a serious issue, but one that should not be the main priority for Kiribati. Instead the more immediate issues of population growth, overcrowding, water and food security, unemployment, education and health should be first addressed, he said.

He added, where climate change was a focus, more attention was needed to how the nation utilised its own resources with that of external resources and that it was necessary for experts to have a sole focus in the context of Kiribati instead of generalising the nation with the rest of the world.

The public raised questions to the panel in person and via telephone and Facebook throughout the day.

*Please note: quotes have been translated from i-Kiribati to English

For more information, please visit:

Sunset in Tarawa.

Government and SPC talk joint strategies

The Government of Kiribati and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) have been working hard to develop a new joint country strategy (JCS) between SPC and the Government of Kiribati.

JCSs are multi-year plans that align the priorities of SPC member countries with the services that SPC can provide. The new plan will focus on a strategy for 2013 to 2015.

Discussions on the strategy, which took place early April 2013 on Tarawa, involved identifying the country’s key development priorities and matching these with the expertise SPC can provide in sectors ranging from fisheries to statistics.

The mission follows a review of the first JCS (2008–2011) carried out in October 2012, which found that SPC in close collaboration with the Government of Kiribati had effectively implemented activities and services in line with Kiribati’s development priorities.

David Teaabo, Pacific Plan Desk Officer with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration, commented that the JCS approach is very much a joint approach and relies on full engagement by the government.

According to Mr Teaabo, the collaborative approach promoted by the JCS makes it possible to improve coordination and collaboration efforts at national level to enable Kiribati to pursue its development priorities.

The mission team was led by Mike Batty, (Director of SPC’s Fisheries, Aquaculture and Marine Ecosystems Division) and included representatives of SPC’s Strategic Engagement, Policy and Planning Facility as well as its Statistics for Development Division. The SPC team’s Kiribati counterparts included Mr Teaabo as well as representatives of the National Economic Planning Office.

Mr Batty said that cooperation between the government and SPC had been excellent, which was a testimony to the commitment by both parties to ensuring that Kiribati’s development priorities are translated into concrete actions.

The signing of the Kiribati Road Rehabilitation Project contract between Ministry of Public Works and Utilities secretary Eita Metai and McConnell Dowell construction manager Rory Bishop. Photo: KAPIII

No potholes in road contract signing

South Tarawa’s long-awaited new road is one step closer after the Government of Kiribati and New Zealand-based construction company McConnell Dowell signed the official contract recently.

Ministry of Public Works and Utilities secretary Eita Metai and McConnell Dowell construction manager Rory Bishop signed the Kiribati Road Rehabilitation Project contract in front of a small gathering in Betio, Kiribati on on Wednesday 27 April, 2013.

The signing of the Kiribati Road Rehabilitation Project contract between Ministry of Public Works and Utilities secretary Eita Metai and McConnell Dowell construction manager Rory Bishop. Photo: KAPIII

The signing of the Kiribati Road Rehabilitation Project contract between Ministry of Public Works and Utilities secretary Eita Metai and McConnell Dowell construction manager Rory Bishop. Photo: KAPIII

Guests were entertained by local dancers and served dinner as part of the signing celebrations.

The Road Rehabilition Project for Kiribati is a $AU38 million project that aims to improve the condition of South Tarawa and Betio’s main road network as well as help strengthen road finance and maintenance capacity.

Roads Project Contract Signing

Local dancers entertain guests after the official signing of the roads project contract. Photo: KAPIII

The three main components of the project are:

1. Infrastructure improvements: main civil works activities to be undertaken on South Tarawa road infrastructure, including the reconstruction and rehabilitation of paved roads on South Tarawa and the rehabilitation of Betio causeway

2. Road sector reform: keep activities to strengthen the road section and lead to more sustainable road infrastructure in South Tarawa

3. Project support: establishing of a project management unit, project associated incremental operation costs, a valuation specialists to identify the appropriate compensation rates for trees and other assets affected by the project, and audit of the project accounts

The Kiribati Road Rehabilitation Project is being implements by the Government of Kiribati with the assistance and funding support from the Asian Development Bank (ADB), World Bank (WB) and AusAID.

Construction work is expected to begin mid-2013.

Related news…

Australia to give $15 million for road

For more information on the project, please visit the ADBWB and AusAID website pages dedicated to the project.

Local IKiribati children perform the Te Buke dance. They face an uncertain future as their islands capacity to support the population diminishes. Photo: Finn Frandsen, Politiken

Human health in a warmer future

What effect will climate change have on health in the Pacific? ABC News Australia environment journalist Sarah Clarke is exploring this question in a five-part series for the ABC…

With climate change forecasts showing the Pacific will face hotter days and more extreme weather in the future, climate scientists and medical authorities say the implications could be serious for human health.

The (Australian) Federal Government’s Climate Commission is predicting a warmer Pacific will produce more heart attacks, strokes, exhaustion and more heat-related deaths.

Pacific countries are already copping the brunt of climate change, with water and food problems causing displacement.

The report also says there is the potential for a greater spread of disease transmitting mosquitoes as rainfall patterns change.

“It’s not only mosquitoes that will thrive in warmer and wetter conditions but it will also be influenced by their natural host populations before they spill over into humans,” he said.

Read the full story at


This sea wall is all that protects these homes in the village of Abarao on the island of Tarawa. Photo: Finn Frandsen, Politiken


This sea wall is all that protects these homes in the village of Abarao on the island of Tarawa Copyright Finn Frandsen Politiken 2

This sea wall is all that protects these homes in the village of Abarao on the island of Tarawa. Photo: Finn Frandsen/Politiken

According to a World Bank report, Kiribati’s capital of Tarawa—where nearly half the population lives—will be 25-54 per cent inundated in the south and 55-80 per cent in the north by mid-century unless there is significant adaptation. Factor in what this means for poisoning of groundwater, destruction of limited arable land and spread of disease, and you have an unlivable national capital.

Kiribati’s response to climate change is focused on adaptation. Its adaptation program, backed in part by AusAID, is carrying out a scientific risk assessment for Tarawa. Kautuna Kaitara, national director of the Kiribati Adaptation Program, says the country’s airstrip will be slowly “eaten away” and water supply spoiled unless there is swift action.

In the meantime, locals are forced to take things into their own hands. Albert Ientau has lived on the water’s edge in Abarao village since 1982. He has continually had to rebuild his sea wall, and more. Mr Ientau is no fool—his re-built house is on makeshift stilts—but the water is lapping at is door before high tide, but as you can see here in this photo series, he often has to roll large boulders into the water in what appears a forlorn exercise to prevent it from returning.

Many villagers have little or no understanding of climate change, but say they know they are witnessing a shift: increasingly intrusive seas, as well as stronger and less predictable winds and more intense heat. “The average i-Kiribati [Kiribati inhabitant] certainly thinks it’s getting hotter,” says Emil Shutz, a former government minister who now runs tours for the country’s few recreational visitors. “Ten years ago they could fish all day, but not any more – it is just too hot.”

There are parts of Kiribati where you can’t see the water, most notably in the southern Tarawa hub of Betio, but the threat of climate change is consistently there. The first thing you see when you land are the sandbags that try, and fail, to stop spring tides from flooding the only airstrip. If you are forced to go to hospital, you may get your feet wet. It is regularly inundated.

Read more case studies


Totibure Muller and her son work on their sea wall that protects their home in the village of Temwaiku on the island of Tarawa. Photo: Justin McManus, The Age

Case Studies

Residents stand by the site of their former village, Tebunginako, now inundated by the sea.  Photo: Justin McManus/The Age.

Residents stand by the site of their former village, Tebunginako, now inundated by the sea. Photo: Justin McManus/The Age.

The effects of climate change can already be seen throughout most islands of Kiribati and
predictions for the future show a strong need for adaptation.

Case study 1: Tarawa: The World Bank recently predicted the capital island of Tarawa, where nearly half the country’s population resides, will be 25 to 54 per cent inundated by water in the south and 55 to 80 percent in the north by 2050 unless significant adaptation is undertaken.

Case study 2: Abaiang: Unfortunately, adaptation has come too late for some villages. The village of Tebunginako in Abaiang Island has already had to relocate due to the effects of severe coastal erosion and saltwater instrusion.


Sea inundadtion at high tide into a former fresh water lagoon. Photo: Justin McManus, The Age

Looking to the skies in Kiribati

Rainfall is essential to recharge the freshwater lens that lies beneath coral atolls in Kiribati. Without it, the i-Kiribati people would not be able to grow plants and crops vital to their livelihood.

Freshwater can be extremely scarce in the Republic of Kiribati, home to over 100,000 people scattered across 22 islands in the Central Pacific. Each year after a long dry season, significant rainfall is generally expected to arrive during November or December. Yet over the last few months only a tiny amount of rain has fallen. The islands are dry.

This is consistent with forecasts that predict La Niña conditions will result in below normal rainfall during the 2010-11 wet season across the Gilbert Islands of Kiribati.

“We are likely to see drought conditions for most of the Gilbert Group. In the last La Niña in 2007-08 there were drought conditions that went on for 15-16 months during that time,” Douglas Ramsay, Manager for the Pacific Rim at NIWA, the New Zealand National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research explains.

This rainfall is essential not only to fill rainwater tanks but also to recharge the freshwater lens that lies beneath these coral atolls. It is this water that is used for the majority of water supply via wells and infiltration galleries. The lens also allows for the growth of breadfruit, coconut palms, giant taro, pandanus and other plants species to support the livelihood of the i-Kiribati people.

In the densely populated capital of South Tarawa, it is estimated that the current demand for safe chlorinated groundwater piped to households is already 40% above the sustainable yield of the utilised lens. Without enough supply, households resort to using the polluted well. As a result, mortality rates for children due to waterborne diseases are in the order of 11 in every 1000 children, amongst the highest in the Pacific.

Under the KAPII (Kiribati Adaptation Program – Pilot Implementation Phase II), 14 outer islands in the Gilbert Group are receiving new rain gauges. KAPII is a project that aims to reduce Kiribati’s vulnerability to climate change, climate variability and sea level rise through adaptation. The islands of Abaiang, Abemama, Aranuka , Kuria, Maiana, Makin, Marakei, North Tarawa, Nikunau, Nonouti, Onotoa, Tabiteuea North, Tabiteuea South, and Tamana will have gauges installed and training provided for the water technician based on each island to record rainfall data in compliance with Kiribati Meteorological Service standards.

Before the installation of the new gauges, a great deal of data was not being collected, and the government lacked information for planning for drought and high intensity rainfall events.

Ueneta Toorua, Research Officer at the Kiribati Meteorological Service explains. “Our islands are small and widely scattered so rainfall varies between them. The general pattern is that the islands north of the equator have higher rainfall than those in the South.”

Besides this, it is also the generally hot and dry weather that has shaped customary practices on the islands.

“The temperature in Kiribati is very consistent throughout the year. This is important for drying copra and the production of dried fish. Our traditional ways are helped by having a consistent climate,” said Mr. Toorua.

As global temperatures increase due to climate change, it is anticipated that average rainfall volumes and the intensity of extreme rainfall events will increase in Kiribati. Yet this rainfall may vary greatly between the islands or fall away from the islands where it is needed most.

“Across the equatorial belt we are likely to see higher rainfall on average but that will be higher intensity, more extreme rainfall. Whether we see more intense droughts is still something that no one really knows. It will depend on how El Niños and La Niñas change with climate change,” Mr. Ramsay said.

Mr. Toorua and his colleagues at the Kiribati Meteorological Service have already seen evidence of this: “Looking at the long term trends there is an increase here in temperature and also in rainfall. On Tarawa we have more data and it has clearly shown that there is a gradual increase in both. However there may be variation in these trends between different islands.”

With the installation of rain gauges across the scattered atolls of the Gilbert Group, the hope is that the data collected will make it possible to answer some of these questions that are so fundamental to the future of Kiribati.

The I-Kiribati people live with the sea regularly threatening their homes, particularly during king tides and storms both occuring with increased frequency.  Photo: Finn Frandsen, Politiken

A call to the world

The tiny Central Pacific nation of Kiribati will be among those first affected by the twin effects of climate change and sea level rise. It’s people have been described as “the most vulnerable of the vulnerable.”

Please watch this eloquent and powerful presentation of what this small nation is facing, as its culture, lifestyle, and very sovereignty is under threat.

It is an appeal to the World and COP 15 from those most affected – the Government & people of Kiribati.