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Customary Land and Climate Change Induced Relocation—A Case Study of Vunidogoloa Village, Vanua Levu, Fiji

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Abstract

Increasingly unremitting weather patterns and rising sea levels have obligated Fiji to become one of the first countries in the South Pacific to relocate communities due to climate change. The customary lands reflect the traditional and communal structure of the indigenous Fijians and parting from it as a consequence of forced relocation is a delicate and vulnerable issue that establishes some of the negative effects of population displacement. Relocation to a new land signifies separation from uniquely adapted traditions that took thousands of years to form. The purpose of this paper is to explore the cultural, social, environmental and economic impacts of climate change induced displacement on the people of Vunidogoloa village and generate suggestions for consideration of socioeconomic and customary aspects in the much anticipated institutional relocation strategies. The paper achieves its purpose through experiences of the people of Vunidogoloa village, in light of the interviews and discussions carried out at the village and interviews conducted with the relevant government officials. In addressing this objective the paper analyses the main constraints of resettlement, the land-people bond, governance, and funding. The paper concludes by providing recommendations essential for national policy guidelines and communities in the South Pacific and in the other parts of the world that face or will face similar challenge.
Chapter 2
Customary Land and Climate Change
Induced RelocationA Case Study
of Vunidogoloa Village, Vanua Levu, Fiji
Dhrishna Charan, Manpreet Kaur and Priyatma Singh
Introduction
The South Pacic being the hub of climate change associated environmental and
social developments is irrefutably one of the worlds most predisposed regions
when it comes to the climate and weather induced disasters (Boege 2011).
Particularly susceptible are the several of the low-lying coral islands (Nunn 2012).
The livelihoods of majority of the Pacic Islanders which revolve around the
Pacic Ocean is being acutely affected due to rising sea levels, increased coastal
erosion, inundation, ooding and salinization of coastal aquifers (Ferris et al. 2011).
For several of the communities in the South Pacic, adaptation has become an
immediate necessity for survival. The pressing need to acclimatize to climate
change adversities has escalated over the last couple of years and the issue of
climate change taking its toll in many island nations has surfaced in recent dis-
courses (Barnett and Campbell 2010).
On the onset, Fijis marine and coastal ecosystems endow considerable physical,
nancial, societal, ecological and cultural benets to approximately half of the
countrys estimated 902 964 population (Govan 2009). Yet, the repercussions of
climate change on the coastal ecosystems are threatening the way of life of the coastal
inhabitants and for the residents of Vunidogoloa in the province of Cakaudrove in
Vanua Levu, relocation has emerged as a reality for more than three decades.
D. Charan P. Singh (&)
Department of Science, The University of Fiji, Saweni, Lautoka, Fiji
e-mail: priyatmas@uniji.ac.fj
D. Charan
e-mail: dhrishnac@uniji.ac.fj
M. Kaur
Department of Language, Literature and Communication, The University of Fiji, Saweni,
Lautoka, Fiji
e-mail: manpreetk@uniji.ac.fj
©Springer International Publishing AG 2017
W. Leal Filho (ed.), Climate Change Adaptation in Pacic Countries,
Climate Change Management, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-50094-2_2
19
In February 2014, the village was the rst in Fiji to reposition; moving 2 km inland
after years of inundation, storm surges, coastal abrasion and unwarranted ooding
had made their village susceptible to the impacts of climate change (United Nations
Ofce for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2014). The traditional responses
of disaster relief were no longer protecting the village community despite thousands
of dollars spent on the construction of sea walls. Community relocation was the only
cogent solution to safeguard the inhabitants of Vunidogoloa (Edwards 2012, p. 3).
Conversely, this was an enormously emotional and harrowing headway for the vil-
lagers especially since they had to retreat from their customary land which has been
part of their culture and identity for their entire life.
Relocation may be the last resort but also one of the best adaptation responses
for several of the coastal Fijian villages currently facing similar tribulations as
Vunidogoloa (Rubelli 2015). This also indicates that quite a few of these vulnerable
villagers will be experiencing similar limitations as faced by the people of
Vunidogoloa. Some of the drawbacks are the availability of land for settlement,
governance and funding and perhaps the most intricate of all is the traditional and
emotional place attachment. Disputes over land rights as well as loss of social and
communal cohesion will highly likely create some of unconstructive effects of
population relocations (Ferris et al. 2011). According to Wewerinkle (2013), the
cultural identity of the people is likely to be impeded by the loss of customary land
that is anticipated to occur as a result of climate change. A report by Nurse et al.
(2014) explains that barriers to taking action have also been attributed to endoge-
nous factors such as traditional values and awareness.
In many indigenous communities access to land depends on membership in a
specic clan. For the iTaukei (indigenous Fijians) the ownership of land is vested in
the mataqali (Fijian clan or landowning unit) (Fonmanu et al. 2003). Land offers
not only livelihood but it is also the source of the traditional and spiritual wellbeing
for many of the island communities. This is why despite the distressed situation on
the islands there are still people who do not want to relocate (Boege 2011).
Generation gap also inuences the decision to relocate. In the Vunidogoloa reset-
tlement case, it was particularly the elderly who did not want to move, while
members of the younger generation were keen to move.
Developing countries also have a major limitation in capacity making adaptation
difcult. Limitations include both human capacity and nancial resources. The lack
of funding available in various forms and difculties in accessing the funds which
are available represents a major barrier for adaptation, particularly for local com-
munity action (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 2006).
Climate-induced population displacement entails a governance and policy frame-
work that can holistically respond to communities challenged with harsh impacts of
climate change. Lack of proper awareness and institutional capacity also limits
adaptation process (Amundsen et al. 2010). Relocation of Vunidogoloa village
provides an opportunity to address the multiple societal issues to foster long term
sustainability in the process of relocating communities.
The document on Peninsula Principles on Climate Displacement within States
(Displacement Solutions 2013) forms a preliminary guiding framework and premise
20 D. Charan et al.
for policy and lawmakers, based on current international law. Myriad doctrines
such as community engagement and consent, provision of affordable housing, land
solutions, basic services and economic opportunities to those affected, have been
experiential in Vunidogoloa.
The purpose of this paper is to consider how social, cultural, nancial and
environmental factors can form barriers to the process of climate change induced
relocation. The paper also aims to provide recommendations for assimilation of
socioeconomic and customary elements in the much anticipated institutional relo-
cation strategies. In addressing this purpose, the study as exemplied by testimonies
and series of in-depth semi structured interviews from some people of Vunidogoloa
village and the government administrators provides a synopsis of some of the
fundamental challenges encountered by the people of Vunidogoloa village from the
inception till the completion of the entire resettlement. In particular, it accentuates
the intricacies surrounding the socio-cultural aspects of the relocation process. The
loss of Fijians customary land that is projected to occur as a result of climate change
is plausible to impede with their cultural identity and associated climate induced
repositioning. The challenges to relocating the community manifestly exhibits the
exigency for new policies and procedures that specically respond to climate
induced relocation. This paper concludes by proposing some strategies that can be
applied to accomplish an improved transition that suits closely knit Fijian com-
munities as a whole and also cares for the various socio-cultural facets that embrace
the community.
Method
Many forecasts have been made to predict the number of climate change induced
migration with the International Organization for Migration (2009) estimating the
number of environmental migrants to range from 25 million to a billion by the year
2050. In the past, more than 15 million people have been estimated to be displaced
due to natural disasters annually around the globe with these numbers projected to
increase signicantly due to the increasing risk brought upon by climate change
(Yonetani 2014). The government of Fiji, in recognition of the eminent dangers and
urgency of climate induced relocation, is currently engaged in a design and con-
sultation process of establishing a relocation guideline to assist communities forced
to migrate due to climate change impacts. The vulnerability assessments carried out
by the Fijian government has identied as many as 830 communities that are at risk
from climate change with 45 of these being recommended for relocation
(Turagaiviu 2015).
This article examines Vunidogoloa village relocation with respect to the chal-
lenges faced by the villagers, essentially in terms of their attachment to the land,
cultural and community cohesion and governance and funding. The challenges
faced by the villagers and their coping mechanisms will be highlighted in this
article with the expectation it will provide a repository of experiences that contains
2 Customary Land and Climate Change Induced Relocation 21
lessons and guidelines for other villages in Fiji. Therefore this research is oriented
towards unearthing and documenting the experiences of the villagers to form rec-
ommendations that can be used by villagers who will experience similar relocation
due to sea-level-rise. This research forms a key element to tackle the adverse
impacts of climate change by proactively learning about climate induced relocation
and adaptive responses in an effort to increase the resilience of those affected.
The sentiments surrounding relocation is complex and as such a mixed
methodology was employed to gain an insight into the experiences of the
Vunidogoloa villagers during their relocation. Key informant interviews and village
survey were conducted to gather primary data on the relocation from those who had
rst-hand knowledge about the entire relocation process. The key informant
interviews and survey were conducted during the month of January, 2016.
Literature review was also conducted using electronic databases, relevant websites
and online reports related to the research topic. The review of existing research,
related to this topic, was used to explore and dene how this study t in the work
being carried out on climate induced displacements regionally and globally.
Key informant interviews using a structured questionnaire was conducted with
government ofcials and other professions who were directly involved in the
Vunidogoloa relocation process. The ten key informants interviewed provided an
insight which served as a basis for future information gathering as the study pro-
gressed. The village survey was carried out using questionnaires via face-to-face
interviews with Vunidogoloa villagers. The researchers interviewed 20 villagers.
Non proportional quota sampling with categories of gender, age, social status and
membership in community sub-groups (such as womens group) was used to
identify the survey participants within the village. Semi-structured interviews were
carried out, exploring the following themes: demographic characteristic; level of
awareness on climate change and its related adaptation activities; coping mecha-
nisms employed to overcome ooding and sea level rise at their previous village
site; challenges faced during/after the relocation. Each interview usually lasted
between 30 and 45 mins.
Communication in iTaukei language was carried out and interpreted by a
translator who was engaged to assist the interviewers. The language barrier was a
major limitation that was faced during this research. The villagers, especially the
elderly had difculty speaking in English and a translator was involved in this
research project, to overcome this problem. Since translation is an interpretive act
which depends on the interpretation and understanding by the translator, there is
always a risk that meaning may get lost in the translation process. For instance, it
was difcult at times to capture the strong sentiments expressed by the villagers
especially in relation to the relocation day, by translating the iTaukei language they
used to English. The villagers also had difculty understanding some of the sci-
entic terms used in the questionnaire as it was difcult to translate some scientic
jargons in the iTaukei language. However, constant discussion and consultation
between the translator and the researcher during each step of the interview process
ensured that translation related problems were reduced whenever possible.
22 D. Charan et al.
Focus of Vunidogola Relocation
The Vunidogoloa village is located in Cakaudrove Province in Fijis second largest,
northern island of Vanua Levu. The original site of the village was located on a tract
of land overlooking the Natawa Bay in the rural town of Savusavu with the houses
sited only a few meters inland from the coast. A report by Nurse et al. (2014)
predicts with certainty, acceleration in sea level rise for the smaller island countries
in the Pacic and forecasts severe sea oods and erosion for low-lying coastal areas.
This holds true for the previous site of the Vunidogoloa village, where heavy rain
and high tides continuously coalesced causing inundation and salt water intrusion,
rendering sustainable local community gardens extremely difcult to manage and
causing widespread damage with oodwater incessantly threatening the safety and
health of the villagers (McNamara and Des Combes 2015). Following abortive
attempts to adapt by building seawalls which easily succumbed to raging waves, in
2014 the villagers moved 2 km inland from their original village to a new site
which fell within the customary land boundaries of the community. The villagers
named this new site, as Kenania Fijian word for the biblical word Canaan for
promised land.
Undoubtedly, the issue of relocation is a sad predicament facing many com-
munities around the world. More so, many villagers like those in Vunidogoloa in
their promised landare increasingly and innocently being subjected to complex
problems such as forced land abandonment and likely socio-environmental changes
while having a very minute contribution to anthropogenic climate change and
associated sea level rise. The paper by Mitchell et al. (2015) proposes a joint
response by the government and community to ensure the success of such relo-
cations. The government of Fiji largely organized the Vunidogoloa relocation as an
integrated action across different government ministries.
Dynamics of Land, Identity and Adaptation
Irrefutably, Fijians have always shared a special relationship with land, regarding
it as a foundation of their identity, a place that denes them as the rightful owners
of their land, closely associated to the nativeswealth, status and placement in
their respective mataqalis. Hence, land is revered nowhere more fervently than in
Fiji. For the natives of Fiji, land is viewed as being more than a resource, with
islanders possessing an instinctive and spiritual attachment to their land (Edwards
2014). An iTaukei community refers to their land as vanua, a term which
unites the concepts of personhood and land ownership as an inseparable entity
where the ownership of an area of vanua is translated to mean the land area one
is identied with.
2 Customary Land and Climate Change Induced Relocation 23
Majority of land in Fiji is owned in trust by natives with the remainder being
state land and freehold (Boydell 2001). Currently, 87% of the land is owned by
traditional Fijian mataqalisand according to the laws of the country, this land is
prohibited from being sold, exchanged or sub-let by the mataqali. The iTaukei
Land Trust Board (TLTB) oversees all the indigenous land and is also responsible
for liaising with various mataqalis. Depending on the size, a village can have
several land-owning mataqaliswithin its boundaries. As a result of such strong
land laws, the Fijians remain a proud race, forming strong spiritual and family
connections with the land (Boydell and Reddy 2000) which is an integral com-
ponent of a Fijianscommunal life style.
Boydell and Shah (2003) compacts this relationship ttingly by suggesting that a
customary land belongs to a communal stewardship rather than an individual with
the mataqali entrusted with the responsibility of taking care of the land for the
spirits of ones ancestors, use of ones life and protection and to ensure sustain-
ability of the land for ones descendants. Due to these reasons, relocating becomes
psychologically stressful for the entire village. They collectively view the process
of relocation as agonizing, poignant and one that is robbing them of their communal
identity. This shared identity of belonging to a mataqali and people of a respective
vanua is a pride that they uphold as landowners and landowning units in their
village. Hence, acquiring alternative land for relocating is a primary obstacle and
this is even true for communities where such land is available as villagers habitually
associate leaving their ancestral homes as potentially losing their identity and
becoming a displaced, landless people (Edwards 2014).
Such is the overwhelming case of the Vunidogoloa village, which moved to a
land owned by the same mataqali. Since the community moved to a land within its
boundaries, the transition was smoother than what the villagers would have
experienced if a suitable resettlement site was not available. Noteworthy is the fact
that even though the relocation was within the vicinity of the existing place, the
prospect of leaving their place of birth, the very land that denes them and solidies
their identity, has a pessimistic bearing on the villagers.
The unwillingness to relocate was echoed by a villager who blatantly responded,
We were trying to adopt by our own so that we dont have to leave our land and
each time the sea came to our doorsteps, we moved a little away from it until it
became so worse that we knew we had to relocate(Vunidogoloa village inter-
viewee, personal communication, 28 January 2016, Savusavu, Fiji). Sovaraki
(2014) quoted a village spokesman of Vunidogoloa who revealed that plans to
relocate had begun in 1956 but due to the reluctance of the elders to leave their
ancestral grounds/boundaries, they had to wait till 2006 to start the process of
relocating. The hold of the land was so great that it bound the villagers for almost
half a century, delaying their process of adaptation till the sea burst its bounds.
Moving away from their land inevitably affects an individuals physiological and
mental health, particularly in the context of disaster recovery and extreme weather
events (Frumkin et al. 2008). Social networks and community connections are
likely to be fractured as a result of climate induce displacement.
24 D. Charan et al.
The prime contributing factor of the Vunidogoloa relocation stemmed from the
constant salt-water inundation, which coupled with the consequent relocation to
another land, cogenerated signicant disruptions to the social and mental health of
the villagers. The emotional distress and anxiety of leaving their ancestral land was
expressed by a villager who vividly recalled, Initially relocating was not an option
to us at all but climate change came like an enemy that chased us away by taking
our land, taking our food, taking everything(Vunidogoloa village interviewee,
personal communication, 28 January 2016, Savusavu, Fiji). The connection to the
land and the environment, traditions and customs associated with it are very pro-
found for a Fijian community, forming part of their identity. Relocation due to
rising sea level is likely to cause communities to have some physiological impacts
while they try to re-build their lives in a new location after their upheaval from the
ancestral lands.
The Cultural-Spiritual Dimension of Resettlement
The ndings also recount the emotional ordeal which obscures the process of
relocation. As recollected by one of the villagers in an interview, Movement to
new site was very painful and upsetting(Vunidogoloa village interviewee, per-
sonal communication, 28 January 2016, Savusavu, Fiji). This is a precise indication
of the level of attachment and sentimental value upheld by people who are in the
process of relocation. As shared by the villagers, it was a difcult situation to leave
the old site where they had lived all their lives, and to go through the harrowing
decision to disentomb and shift the remains of their ancestors to a new burial site. In
an interview with another village representative, it was noted, We didnt want to
leave the cemetery where it was, to be washed away, so the church arranged for the
burial site to be moved. Sadly the rst burial at the new site was that of a still-born
child which is interpreted as a bad omen from our ancestors(Vunidogoloa village
interviewee, personal communication, 28 January 2016, Savusavu, Fiji).
The Fiji Police Force facilitated the relocation process and in a conversation with
one of the police ofcers, it was recorded that, the spiritual connection to the land
was so strong that some families were adamant not to move despite being fully
aware of the severity of climate change impacts(Fiji Police Force interviewee,
personal communication, 28 January 2016, Savusavu, Fiji). All the villagers
interviewed during eld study indicated that climate change and the need to relocate
had always been a topic of discussion at community gatherings, church assemblies,
and even at homes amongst family members and such deliberations had often ended
with sundry responses from the people. It seemed that the youngsters were willing
to relocate while the elders of the village could not come to terms with having to
uproot an entire community and relocateit meant detachment from their identi-
ties, parents and cultural ambiance. In an interview with an administrator from
Cakaudrove Provincial Council, it was recorded, People were not ready and
2 Customary Land and Climate Change Induced Relocation 25
discussions concerning relocation took several years(Cakaudrove Provincial
Council interviewee, personal communication, 25 November 2015, Savusavu, Fiji).
For the people of Vunidolgoa, relocation would not have eventuated if it was not
utterly necessary. The old site was linked to some exceptional and momentous
nostalgic signicance. The day of actual relocation was the most difcult moment in
the lives of the people of Vunidogoloa. A representative of the Vunidogoloa
Womens group described the movement, as if a funeral procession was under-
way(Vunidogoloa village interviewee, personal communication, 27 January 2016,
Savusavu, Fiji). Although, the relocation for Vunidogoloa village was planned and
executed with the consent of the villagers the entire process from its inception to
completion created a profound spiritual predicament. An increased feeling of
alienation and stress associated with relocation may pose threat to the health, and
the overall welfare of the people (Fresque-Baxter and Armitage 2012).
The Vunidogoloa relocation is the rst successful project of its kind in the South
Pacic and for Fiji. However, in an interview with an administrator of Ministry of
iTaukei Affairs it was revealed that climate change adaptation through relocation
may not be so easy to achieve for many of the other vulnerable Fijian villages
(Ministry of iTaukei Affairs interviewee, personal communication, 26 November
2015, Suva, Fiji). Piazza and Bolalevu (2014) elucidate that the most important
factor is the willpower of the people especially since the cultural and spiritual
signicance that indigenous people attach to their lands and territories goes far
beyond any monetary or productive value or even the value of their life.
In the case of another village, Vunisavisavi, also located in the
Cakaudrove Province, the relocation is impeded by traditional obligation of the
villagers to the Tui Cakau (High Chief of Cakaudrove Province in Fiji). Silaitoga
(2016) quoted a village spokesman of Vunisavisavi village who revealed that the
cultural obligation towards the Tui Cakau was an ancestral tradition and upheld
great values. The villagers believe in customary punishment succeeding relocation
which will affect their livelihood at the new location. The residents of Vunisavisavi
treasure their land and associated cultural values so much that despite being
strongly advised to relocate, the villagers are not willing to budge (Frontline Truths
by the Pacic Climate Warriors 2015).
In an interview with a Vunidogoloa villager representing the chiey clan, it was
highlighted that there is a need to develop the faith of the people. He mentioned
detachment from customary land is heartbreaking and it is important to move
people together with their church and faith to make relocation a success
(Vunidogoloa interviewee, personal communication, 29 January 2016, Savusavu,
Fiji). Peoples opinion of climate change and its impacts is greatly inuenced by the
church, which is a signicant barrier to adaptive capacity (Kuruppu and Willie
2015). The Pacic Conference of Churches, village church leaders and the village
chiefs play a pivotal role in ensuring that the traditional values are integral during
and after the repositioning process. For indigenous societies, every aspect of climate
change is mediated by culture. Community cohesion and place attachment are also
key elements in sustaining indigenous societies actions against climate change
(Adger et al. 2013).
26 D. Charan et al.
Adaptation LimitsFrom a Governance and Funding
Perspective
The initial consultations between the village headman and the Fijian Government
ofcials occurred in year 2006. It was not until year 2012 that some events started to
transpire. During this period the villagers waited tensely for the government to
reciprocate (United Nations Ofce for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
2014). In the 2012 national budget, the Fijian Government sanctioned an allocation
of FJD $1.0 million to the Ministry of Provincial Development and National
Disaster Ofce for Disaster Risk Reduction measures (The Fijian Government
2012). The total for Vunidogoloa relocation project cost is estimated at around FJD
$980,000 of which FJD $740,000 was government contribution while an approx-
imate sum of $240,000 was subsidized by the community in the form of timber
used for construction (Cakaudrove Provincial Council interviewee, personal com-
munication, 29 January 2016, Savusavu, Fiji). Timber was provided from their
forest reserves. Relocation is undeniably costly in many ways and is often con-
sidered as a last resort for vulnerable communities (McNamara and Des Combes
2015). Community contribution is essential as it eases the nancial burden endured
by the government. However, several coastal Fijian communities have limited
resources and may not be able to make signicant contributions which will further
exhaust government funding.
The legislative issues coupled with community consultations also complicates
the relocation process and results in delays. This concern was noted in an interview
with a Fijian government ofcial, It is not easy for government to relocate a
community, as witnessed in the case of Vunidogoloa, the process takes a lot of time
as a lot of government departments are engaged, and there is a lot of paper work
(Fiji Government interviewee, personal communication, 28 January 2016,
Savusavu, Fiji). Similar concern was noted in another interview with an iTaukei
provincial council ofcial, It takes a lot of time to consult with iTaukei adminis-
trators and ensure that indigenous protocols are observed(Cakaudrove Provincial
Council interviewee, personal communication, 26 January 2016, Savusavu, Fiji).
There is an immediate need not only for Fiji but for other Small Island Developing
States to reinforce synchronization between various departments responsible for
climate change adaptation and disaster management (Kuruppu and Willie 2015).
Fijis current climate change policy does not specically address relocation as an
adaptation measure. There is no clear mandate to accommodate the relocation
process and therefore, a national relocation guideline is being conscripted, however,
it is still a work in progress (Pareti 2015). There is no clear indication as to much
longer it would take to establish the guideline which must support a factual and
participatory approach to planning and execution of relocation (McNamara and Des
Combes 2015). A lack of legal and policy frameworks, procedural and human
resources and nancing for relocation impedes progress of the guideline (Wilsons
2014). Customary land plays a fundamental role in identity, way of life, communal
unity and source of revenue for Pacic islanders, and forced detachment from the
2 Customary Land and Climate Change Induced Relocation 27
land is a sensitive issue which further complicates relocation policies. Although
relocation is considered to be adaptive response to climate change, many Pacic
Islanders oppose the notion of resettlement and this has signicant repercussions for
national policy that supports relocation as an adaptive strategy (Campbell and
Warrick 2014).
For the people of Vunidogoloa, the preferred new site was available about 2 km
inland on higher ground and was owned by the same mataqali who owned the old
site. This avoided any land issues which would have emerged if additional cus-
tomary land were to be acquired from a different mataqali (Mitchell et al. 2015). In
Fiji, majority land is owned by different mataqalisand while some are prepared to
accommodate new occupants at a small cost, some may still engage in extensive
negotiations and sizeable remuneration (Wilson 2014). Cultural obligations also
plays a signicant role in shaping peoples perceptions of climate risks at the local
level in the Pacic and a thorough relocation policy would have to adequately
address this issue. This concern was noted in an interview with one of the
Vunidogoloa villager, government must consider relocating people together with
their church. The reluctance of Vunisavisavi villagers to move to new site is also
an example of a cultural issue that can hinder adaptation. Several government
ministries provided their input in the relocation process. Some of the authorities
provided funding while some provided signicant resources for the provision of
essential services and new livelihoods. The multi-sectoral approach is vital in
maintaining the socio-economic status of the relocated families and must be pri-
oritised in the policy framework.
National governments do not have the capacity to offer displaced people innite
nancial support (Edwards 2013, p. 2). Developing nations also experience com-
plications in accessing global climate change fund. The prerequisites to acquiring
such funds are sometimes difcult to achieve and as a result, developing nations fail
to benet from them. The process of accreditation is a lengthy one which is
prompting some developing nations to opt for alternative route. The Fijian gov-
ernment managed to access some grant from the Green Climate Fund through a
partnership with the Asian Development Bank, which has already attained
accreditation (Takehiko 2015). The Fijian governments relocation policy must
emphasize on the concept of relocation with dignity, since relocation has count-
less strings attached to it for the person, family or community who has or need to be
relocated.
Community Cohesion
Fijian settlement is extensively identied as a closely-knit community due to its
communal way of living. This is ingrained in the minds of the people who in many
Fijian villages around the country practice and even today are unable to view
themselves as a separate entity from their mataqali. During the eld survey almost
all the interviewees stressed that the villagers deal with issues collectively and not
28 D. Charan et al.
as individual units. One villager shared the reason for Vunidogoloa settlement
taking so much time to nally relocate, Our people of the Vanua view this place as
kece (everyones) and as a community we deal with problems together
(Vunidogoloa interviewee, personal communication, 29 January 2016, Savusavu,
Fiji). In recognition of the important role that community social protection plays in
Fiji, efforts to relocate the people to improve targeting, inclusiveness and gover-
nance of community-level is a huge challenge here in Fiji. Due to the nature of
family units, a strong bonded Pacic community with its cultural roots dening
them as one people makes it rather complicated to talk communities for relocation
(Ferris et al. 2011).
In addition, according to one villager interviewed during eld study, he echoed
that Elders of Vunidogoloa were really against relocation that the younger gen-
eration decided not to move unless all the elders within certain age category nally
died(Vunidogoloa interviewee, personal communication, 29 January 2016,
Savusavu, Fiji). The respect and solidarity displayed by the younger generation to
not hurt the feelings of the elders is noteworthy. The support system in place in this
village is a testimony of community unity and to what extent these common people
can go for each other during times of tribulation. Together these ideologies of
shared community and one people of the vanua can buffer these communities
against vulnerabilities such as climate change and its impacts. For many years the
villagers lived at the same place that continued to threaten their livelihoods, rip
them off their prospect of progress, only to live in harmony at their place of birth, a
place that denes them as a unique clan. This is one reason it took them so long to
relocate even after fully understanding the threat their current place of residence
posed on their lives and their families.
Awareness and Monitoring
The Pacic Island countries (PICs) are projected to be one of the rst to experience
the impacts of climate change. This calls for a proactive approach by the PICs
government to create awareness amongst its citizens to ensure that they are
equipped to tackle the looming dangers. In the Pacic Islands, however, the reactive
approach as compared to a more proactive approach, is more common as the
awareness follows after the rst hand experiences with the effects of climate change
(Ferris et al. 2011). This is clearly demonstrated by the relocated villagers of
Vunidogoloa who were initially caught unaware that the receding shore and the
advance of the sea waves were signs of climate change. This led to a period of
inactivity with little effort by the villagers to adopt using soft adaptation techniques
before the seawall construction and the subsequent relocation were nally ensued
after 40 years of rst detection in the 1950s. Awareness and community outreach
programs by civil organisations and the government is of paramount importance as
such incentives spark behavioural changes in local people that enhance social
resilience and enable them to better adapt to the impacts of climate change.
2 Customary Land and Climate Change Induced Relocation 29
Capacity building has been highlighted as a priority in developing countries to
ensure access to information, knowledge and participatory principles (Kumamoto
and Mills 2012). In the case of Fiji Islands, this becomes even more imperative
since the national government is usually the contact point and the recipient of
international adaptation nancing. Studying the case of the Vunidogoloa relocation
has made it clear that awareness of the cause of their inundation issues was essential
in advancing the relocation and in enhancing the adaptive capacity of the villagers.
Government monitoring of communities that are particularly vulnerable and raising
awareness at the initial detection of vulnerability is critical to ensure that com-
munity members actively search for options to adapt rather than be caught unaware
until the full effects of climate change come to bear on them.
Conclusion
The ndings from the survey unveil some valuable qualitative insights into peoples
perception of climate change and also establish the fact that relationship between
land and culture is inherent in the context of climate induced relocation. For the
Vunidogoloa village community the call for support from government to consider
relocating the village was genuine and necessary. The ndings further disclose that
in relocating vulnerable communities, it becomes fundamental to contemplate not
only the nancial and bureaucratic conditions surrounding their relocation, but also
the numerous socio-cultural features that encompass the community. Fijian com-
munities are diverse and entrenched in cultural sensitivities of the environment
which as realized through this study can be a signicant barrier to climate change
adaptation. A number of awareness programs are needed to stimulate behavioural
changes in people that can increase their capacity to better adapt to the impacts of
climate change. The outcomes of this exploratory study also irrefutably support the
notion that relocation must be conducted in a holistic manner that bets commu-
nities and conserves quality of life. Indubitably, it is essential to note that many
such communities embrace distinctive sets of traditional knowledge and abilities
that provide opportunities for adaptation both by staying put and by relocating. The
Vunidogoloa relocation being the rst effective relocation project in Fiji, and the
South Pacic sets the premise for future climate change induced relocations by
recognizing a list of potential complications that Fijian government must address in
their national relocation policy. Fijian government has identied a number of
communities that need to be relocated in the next decade and is also developing a
national relocation guideline. This paper through its ndings recognizes the exigent
need for an ofcial relocation policy document which encompasses all the leg-
islative issues and planning framework and is meticulously prepared in consultation
with all the relevant stakeholders including research and academic institutes. This is
to ensure that climate change induced relocation is aligned to national strategic plan
and government primacies. Relocation as a climate change adaptation strategy must
be considered as a last resort particularly because it involves an increased cost that
30 D. Charan et al.
encumbrances the national budget. Communities differ in the level of vulnerability
and a systematic preliminary assessment must be carried out to determine the most
appropriate adaptation strategies for each community to reduce their vulnerability.
Procuring land for relocation may prove to be problematic since majority of the
land in Fiji is customary and protected by the laws of the country. A legitimate
approach and advance planning and consultation is thus obligatory for securing
land for successful relocation. The bonding to land is also strongly embedded in the
lifestyle of the Fijian community and a national relocation plan must be able to
subtly tackle this issue. Culture, communal unity, and traditional obligations to
ancestors play a colossal role in deliberations relating to relocation and in extreme
cases even prevent communities to move. It is thus essential to incorporate
sociocultural parameters in a relocation policy. In-depth consultations and com-
munity outreach programs with vulnerable villagersnecessitates for them to
fathom that customary livelihoods may be enhanced through relocation than by
staying back and guarding an existing settlement. Socio-economic quandary
embraces even greater sway in decisions related to community resettlement and for
this reason it is imperative to adopt a cross-sectoral and a participatory approach
that is inclusive of environmental consultants, pertinent government and
non-government ofcials, church leaders, community residents, social researchers,
academics and local community specialists.
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