Field Trip to Ba catchment, Fiji in 2018
The research team visited the Ba catchment, Fiji from 7-18 November 2018 with the goal of understanding climate change adaptation strategies in Fijian communities of Indian origin.
Building on past fieldwork in the region, this trip focused on adaptation strategies among Indo-Fijian communities. Since the last field trip to the region, there were three severe flooding events in early 2018. The interviews this trip looked at post-disaster recovery near the Ba river where households face multiple environmental risks including floods, cyclones, and droughts.
- Andreas Neef (project leader), Archana Chand, Sivendra Michael, Erin Thomas (students), Tomasi Sovea (research assistant) - University of Auckland
- Renata Varea (research assistant) - University of the South Pacific
- Floris van Ogtrop, Eleanor Bruce, Anshuka Anshuka (student) - University of Sydney
- Bryan Boruff - University of Western Australia
The research focused on three main areas near the Ba river. Wailailei/Rarawei, Votua, and Etatoko.
During the first week, the team conducted seven participatory hazard mapping exercises with households as well as semi-structured household interviews. Participatory hazard mapping involved household members identifying areas on the map that are meaningful to their livelihoods as well as the various risks. This included floods, cyclones, droughts, and the effects of aggravating factors like insecure land rights and socioeconomic status. Renata led causal loop analyses to dig deeper into how these systems interact.
In the second week, the team continued the semi-structured household interviews with a total of 36. Interviews were semi-structured with open-ended questions about the effects of and adaptation strategies to climate disasters. Translation in Fiji Hindi was led by Anshuka, Archana, and Sivendra.
Participatory Hazard Mapping with Fijian women of Indian origin in Etatoko
Interview in an Indo-Fijian household in the Votua neighbourhood
Dr Floris van Ogtrop checking the height of the recent floods in one house
Several Fijians of Indian origin have built elevated homes as flood adaptation measures
A young Fijian farmer of Indian origin harvests coriander for sale in the market. Many Indo-Fijian households in the Wailailei/Rarawei area lost their gardens due to severe river bank erosion.
In early 2018, there were three flooding events that came in quick succession. One of the floods occurred before the prior flood had receded in many places. For some, this was the worst flooding they have experienced to date. For others, it was added to a long list of disasters including cyclones and droughts. Amidst the courageous and troubling stories of response and adaptation, several patterns appeared.
Increasing frequency and intensity of flooding and cyclone events have made adaptation challenging and more complicated. Building two-story houses to avoid damages from flooding can put homes at a greater risk of cyclone damage. Climate change also has long-term effects on livelihoods, and interviews highlighted the impacts on sugarcane and vegetable farming in the Ba catchment region. Initial findings also suggest that land policy plays a large role in defining possible adaptation strategies for Indo-Fijian communities.
Sivendra concluded that “this visit provided us an opportunity to learn about the challenges that some participants continue to experience and established that more needs to be done to help them to be prepared for future disaster events.”
Report by Erin Thomas