PORT VILA — The island nation of Vanuatu has a population of 260,000 and is located in the South Pacific ocean. The developing region is still reeling from the devastation wrought by Tropical Cyclone (TC) Pam in 2015, which killed 11 people, left thousands homeless and destroyed a staggering 96 percent of the nation’s crops.
As the country rebuilds, aid is crucial to address imminent infrastructure needs and crop recovery. Additionally, leaders remain simultaneously focused on already-existing development projects in Vanuatu – the nation worked toward improved climate change response and access to renewable energy well before TC Pam arrived.
Vanuatu Infrastructure Reconstruction and Improvement Project
Financed by the World Bank, the Vanuatu Infrastructure Reconstruction and Improvement Project was approved in 2016. Slated for completion in 2022, the project addresses five key components essential to its goal of repair and revitalization of Vanuatu’s TC Pam-damaged infrastructure:
- Reconstruction and improved resilience of roads and road assets (e.g. road structures and footpaths)
- Repair and rebuilding of the more than 70 heavily damaged and, in some cases, completely demolished primary and secondary schools
- Public building and government office building repairs
- Implementation and technical support to enhance capacity for the reconstruction and improvement projects
- Preparedness practices for rapid response in case of emergencies during the rebuilding process
The project is active alongside the separate, but likewise World Bank-financed, Vanuatu Aviation Investment Project. The Vanuatu Aviation Investment Project was approved for 2015 through 2019 and aims toward aviation sector reform and aviation infrastructure repair and improvements essential to the island nation’s tourism industry.
Crop Recovery and the Role of Aid
Eighty percent of Vanuatu citizens’ livelihoods depend on agriculture. After TC Pam, Vanuatu saw the loss of crop exports, local crops, food stores and seed stocks. The banana, coconut, cabbage plants and leafy vegetable crops were largely destroyed, as were the local sources of cassava, taro, yams and fruit trees. Small livestock was wiped out and all fishing supplies (such as canoes, boats and gear) were greatly damaged.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations houses the Special Fund for Emergency and Rehabilitation Activities. As a top contributor to the Fund, the nation of Belgium’s early response enabled vegetable seed distribution to farmers and families in the wake of TC Pam. As the FAO-Belgium collaboration continues, urban gardens have been established throughout the capital of Port Vila, meeting the needs of thousands of citizens.
The partnership has also provided training of: food preservation practices in preparation for weather-related disasters, nursery establishment for households to re-grow gardens and agricultural inputs like sandalwood, whitewood and mahogany seedlings in areas where forests were decimated.
Vanuatu Coastal Adaptation Project
As in all nations of the Pacific Islands, development projects in Vanuatu must address the current and impending effects of climate change. The Vanuatu Coastal Adaptation Project (VCAP), through the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Climate Change Adaptation initiative, works to implement adaptive strategies and resilience to the effects of rising sea level – indeed, projections estimate a rise of 20 centimeters by 2050.
Programs for strengthening early warning systems and for integrating water resource and coastal management are developed to aid in national policy reform, increased knowledge, agricultural resilience and, of course, saving lives. The project also incorporates rehabilitation of coastal ecosystems like mangroves, coral reefs and fisheries.
Energy Access Project
Seventy-five percent of Vanuata’s population lives in rural areas – of that portion, only 33 percent has full access to electricity. Of those that have access, kerosene and diesel are used at great expense in terms of both money and safety in households. In addition to their contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, imported petroleum products also currently cost more than what the nation exports.
Through the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Energy Access Project works to combat the reliance on fossil fuels by constructing the Brenwe Hydropower Plant. The plant will increase energy access and the generation of renewable energy in the islands of Espiritu Santo and Malekula, the second and third most populated islands, respectively.
The plant will extend the electricity grid to 1,050 more households on the two islands, with hopes of more plant construction on other islands in the future. The project also provides for training in electricity safety and budget management, as well as options for generating electricity-based income.
Current development projects in Vanuatu are poised to guide the nation toward stability in the connected aspects of energy, climate, food security and recovery. Through aid, hope and the strength of its citizens, Vanuatu is ready (and viable) for renewed growth.
– Jaymie Greenway