12 Aug 2013

Tool to educate about climate change in Vanuatu

5:20 pm on 12 August 2013

The Department of Meterology and Geo-Hazard in Vanuatu has developed an animated tool to educate people in the villages about climate change.

"The cartoon, called Cloud Nasara , availiable in Bislama, French and English, tells the story of a group of clouds floating above the Pacific, their interactions with village people and a reggae parrot."

Mary Baines reports:

NARRATOR OF CARTOON: Welcome to Vanuatu. This is island life at its best. The fields are planted, the songs are sweet, and the wet season is on its way.

It's a perfect day in Vanuatu. But the village people and their reggae parrot are being urged to prepare for extreme weather events. In some years, Vanuatu will have very dry or very wet conditions as a result of El Nino or La Nina.

NARRATOR OF CARTOON: Some years the trade winds weaken, causing the warm pool and the Cloud Nasara that forms above it to move away from Vanuatu. The Meteo Office calls this 'El Nino'. El Nino has a big influence on our lives.

The cartoon shows the effects of El Nino - less rain, drought and food shortages, sometimes lasting for a year. And it shows the influence of La Nina - heavy rain, landslides and flooding, leading to dangerous roads, damaged infrastructure and water-logged crops. The programme's national co-ordinator, Philip Malsale, says the animation aims to raise awareness of the science and impacts of El Nino and El Nina, and how people can best prepare for them. He says a 2011 Australian Pacific Climate Change Programme report shows many locals did not know how to recognise signs of climate change, or how to adapt to them.

PHILIP MALSALE: The Department of Meterology and Geo-Hazard came up with this animation to try and simplify the climate science and to inform people how they can have access to information from the Met Service, and how they can use the very cheap ways of preparing at a community level to build resilience to climate change.

Mr Mansale says the local people will take in more from a cartoon than complex scientific information on climate.

PHILIP MALSALE: The level of literacy is very low compared to other Pacific countries. When you are doing awareness programs in communities, people don't understand what you're saying especially when you come from a scientific institution like the Met Department. If you come up with a very simple and visual aid like the animation, people will relate themselves to the real life situation and really see whats happening.

Mr Mansale says the animation urges people to keep up-to-date with seasonal forecasts and learn how to adapt to the natural ups and downs of the climate. He says it will also help locals adapt to human induced climate change.

NARRATOR OF CARTOON: You can take action by keeping up-to-date with seasonal forecasts. Warnings of El Nino and La Nino events can be used in your community to prepare for the coming season.

The programme is being distributed in Vanuatu schools, communities and businesses this week.