Vanuatu pilot project showcased at adaptation conference

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Vanuatu Independent, Rotterdam, Netherlands

The newly established Nev House pilot project in Tanna, TAFEA province in Vanuatu, was featured at the recent Adaptation Futures conference, which was held from May 10-13 in Rotterdam.

The secretary of the new TAFEA advisory committee behind the project, Paul Nalau, was at the conference and spoke on a panel called "Indigenous climate change adaptation and transformations: Adapting to future challenges by learning from the past." 

A demonstration Nev House built in Vanuatu capital Port Vila. (Credit: Nev House)

The impact of climate change, alongside other environmental changes, is creating new challenges and opportunities for indigenous groups worldwide. However, it is understood that discussions about climate change often do not consider how adaptation can be linked with the aspirations of indigenous peoples to attain a more meaningful system of governance. 

The panel session led by Nalau explored the ways Indigenous Knowledge (IK), values, and models of living can be brought into conversation with Western science and governance structures to enable more sustainable adaptation initiatives. 

He had the opportunity to share the experience of working with Nev House, particularly in transforming governance in Vanuatu, incorporating kastom, cultural diversity, and complex social-ecological changes in policy-making. 

The pilot housing project is run by Australian organization Nev House in conjunction with a group of qualified and professional Ni-Vanuatu who believe that their expertise can make a difference to their local communities back in Tanna. The initial plan of intengration first aimed to construction these storm-resistant homes, which are engineered to withstand Category 5 storms in Tanna, with the support and endorsement of 12 tribes from the island in the TAFEA province. 

Under the project, 112 classrooms are to be built. The first 10 were recently launched by government officials, including the Deputy Prime Minister and Minsiter of Trade and Tourism Joe Natuman, the Minister of Infrastructure Jotham Napat, and the Parliament Secretary Johnny Koanapo. 

"Nev House in Tanna is the first in the world equipped with 'All in One' (anti-cyclone up to Category 5, with a guarantee of 75 years)," Paul said. He said that Nev Houses take only three months to build compared to other houses that take six months before completion. It is also cheaper: Nev Houses can be built for VT 6 million while similar construction can cost up to VT 9 million. 

Through his participation at the Rotterdam conference, Paul hopes to share the experience of the Vanuatu project, which is "all about the people's empowerment and how they can better manage their own limited resources, particularly sand and water in relation to climate change, adaptation, and mitigation."

Around 1,600 delegates from over 100 countries attended the biennial conference, which brings scholars, practitioners, policymakers, and businesspeople from all over the world to connect, learn, and inspire each other. It highlights adaptation practices and solutions for people, governments, and businesses.