Meet a mother of four children from the island of Butaritari the second Northern Island in Kiribati who is a passionate banana sale’s woman by the name of Emaa Kiribi, 53 years old.
Emaa knows almost all the faces of the regulars who walk the capital street of Bairiki and who are kind enough to buy just one banana to keep them healthy and to give her, an income.
Earning almost $20 a day, the woman is able to save up just enough for her youngest daughter Telafue Teretia, 14 years old who attends form one in Butaritari Junior Secondary School. She started supporting her children alone in 2009 after her husband Teretia from Makin and Butaritari passed away. The husband worked for the Kiribati Shipping Agency from 1999 to 2004 and then became a regular fisherman from Betio until his passing.
A devout catholic who grew up in other churches such as KPC and Baha’I, Emaa believes people are all the same and that people have the right to choose which church to attend because they are all true.
The couple joined the Latter Day Saints (LDS) in 2007 almost the same time she took up the job selling fresh yummy bananas.
“Bananas have grown well in the garden Island of Butaritari because it is in the North, and therefore rains a lot and we know bananas love to grow in both hot and wet conditions. Cultivating and managing bananas is highly supported by MELAD because it is a healthy fruit for the people and now, another means of income to a lot of families.” Takena Redfern, Senior Agriculture Officer (SAO), Ministry of Environment, Lands and Agricultural Development (MELAD), Agriculture and Livestock Division.
Climate resilient crops such as cassava, Kumara and Taro have also been introduced in Butaritari as well as other Islands in Kiribati to help the people in Kiribati adapt to climate change and because it grows well in Butaritari, a market of exporting from Butaritari to Tarawa is possible to help other islands and mainly the capital Tarawa where almost half the population of Kiribati now reside.
When asked if she wanted to migrate due to sea level rise to bigger countries like New Zealand and Australia through the Pacific Access Category (PAC), Emaa kindly said she would rather live in Kiribati for the rest of her dear life. Emaa is afraid of the Tsunami stories that she’s heard and believes it is safer here because of the big ocean.
Having only completed class nine back in the days, Emaa’s only wish for her youngest daughter when asked if she wanted her daughter to live abroad was that – she would rather see her youngest daughter serve her mission and then decide for herself.
Kiribati people want to migrate with dignity.