Fiji: Faces of Resilience

Narikoso village is on the verge of being engulfed by rising sea levels, and this portrays the threat of climate change to many other communities in Fiji. Coastal communities are at risk of receding shorelines and inland communities faces disasters such as landslides.

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After an adventurous 24 hours on a ferry boat and a short speedboat, I arrived in Narikoso village. Narikoso village, for me, embodied Fijian hospitality. Each person in the community shared what felt like an “open-door policy”. It seemed that there was always time for a guest to walk-in, sit down, and share tea (freshly picked lemon leaves steeped in a pot of hot water). As a guest, I was treated with traditional meals with foods such as breadfruit, fish, and taro.

Before arriving, I was told that this village was on the verge of “disappearing”. It was simply on the path to being destroyed by the ocean. When I set food on Narikoso village, I could immediately notice waves crashing against the edge of the homes – it was almost like the bottom and side of the homes were sliding into the water.

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I approached the house of the man who is coordinating the relocation efforts. When I spoke to him, he explained, “the water was much further out before”, he pointed in the distance, and I thought that the place he was referring to must have been a kilometre away.

He continued, “my house was always safe from water coming in during high tide. Now it is not the case”. He told me he felt a sudden wake-up call one day and began to ask for help from the government. If he didn’t act now, he knew it would be too late. He was able to successfully collaborate with stakeholders to arrange a relocation of the entire village of Narikoso.

The residents of Narikoso village collectively felt that “things are changing and there is something we have to do about it to protect the future of our village”.

Climate change exacerbates problems around the world, but the problems are felt much more intimately in Fiji and the other Pacific Islands. Climate change doesn’t only mean rising sea levels, it also means increased occurrences or severity of disasters.

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I can say, without hesitation, that I encounter living examples of resilience. For me, understanding the meaning of resilience is a deeper yearning to understand what it means to be human. I think that what defines us, as human, is the capacity to face adversity and uncertainty with strength and resilience.