Penina Moce, an account of a climate witness | WWF

Penina Moce, an account of a climate witness

Posted on
08 November 2017
Thirteen years ago  Penina Moce a WWF Climate Witness from  Fiji spoke at Climate Change Conference in Buenos Aires in Argentina on how Climate Change was affecting her community.

Ms. Moce is from Kabara, a picturesque island in the Pacific where the effects of climate change threaten the health, livelihood and resources of its inhabitants.

"During my first trip, I spoke about water shortage and  eroding coastlines. In the past 13 years, nothing has improved. I am now 56 and the changes I have seen in my village and island since 2000 are worrying," said Ms. Moce.

In May a storm lashed the island sending a tidal wave into the village flattening trees, brush  and damaging  houses along the coast, "I would say the wave was worse than what we experienced during Winston[1] in 2016. It brought a metre high of sand into the village. We were shocked, nothing like that has ever happened before outside of the cyclone season[2]," said Ms. Moce.

Fruit trees are now flowering and bearing fruit out of season, "Mango trees  flower and bear fruit in the middle of the year, sometimes they flower and don't bear fruit, when they do the fruit are so small," Ms. Moce explained. The flamboyant tree[3]  which traditionally heralds the Christmas season in Fiji is not flowering in December and bird life has been affected, " Our treasured sea bird- the Lawedua[4] that usually nest in the high rocky ledges on our island have disappeared."

In the past women would not have to walk far from the village to collect shellfish and seagrass, "Now we spend half a day collecting shellfish because we have to walk longer distances during the low tide."

As Ms. Moce explained, water shortage is an ongoing problem for the people of Kabara, "We are known in the province for that fact. Now the longer dry spells are affecting our food plantations, our pandanus plantations- which we rely on to make mats for income."

And it is not that the population on the island has increased, "Our village has 18 households and there are at least four to five people in a household compared to 10 to 12 when I was growing up, more people live in Suva so it is not really about more people but changing weather," Ms. Moce said.

She said they are also worried about a rather new and now regular occurrence of diarrhoea when water supplies reach critical levels. In the long term malnutrition could become an issue due to food security  affected by scarcity of marine resources and  severe weather patterns such as extended dry seasons and storms.
 
 Obviously all is not well on what seems like an idyllic island in the Pacific, "Our faith in God keeps us going, it is what we have that he will send us rain. We do our part, use water wisely, look after our environment, we trust God to give us what we need," said Ms. Moce.
 

[1] Tropical Cyclone Winston was the most intense tropical cyclone in the Southern Hemisphere on record, as well as the strongest to make landfall in the Southern Hemisphere.[1]
[2] November-April is regarded as cyclone season in Fiji
[3] Delonix regia
[4] White tailed Tropic Bird