18 Dec 2013

Carteret Islanders want Bougainville move but house building slow

5:53 pm on 18 December 2013

Tulele Peisa, a non-government organisation in Papua New Guinea's Bougainville says they need more help to cater for dozens of families wanting to more to main island from the Carterets.

The tiny islands are increasingly under threat from the effects of climate change, with flooding affecting residents' chances for producing food.

Tulele Peisa in conjunction with the Catholic Church, is providing land on the main island of Bougainville, near Tinputz, where the people are being resettled.

The NGO's spokesperson, Ursula Rakova, says they have settled seven families so far and built six and a half houses.

They want to move hundreds more and Don Wiseman asked her about what the hold-up is.

URSULA RAKOVA: There's a lot of people interested to move voluntarily. The hindrance is actually to do with homes, because we want complete homes before we can actually move people in and it's still very slow basically because we have not had support coming locally and nationally. We've got support coming from churches in Germany and this is why building the homes is quite slow. And it has slowed down the process of physically relocating people. But in terms of sustainable livelihoods we are way ahead.

DON WISEMAN: In terms of sustainable livelihoods, these families, they've got enough room for their own gardens and they've got opportunities for employment, have they?

UR: Yeah, there is opportunities for growing a lot of their own food crops, as well as cash crops which is basically cocoa and coconut. We've mapped out one hectare each family, so we are now in the process of marking out another hectare per family so families will be left to manage two hectares each. So in terms of sustainable livelihood the families are well sustained.

DW: Could we talk about the islands themselves, because we know that they've been in a precarious state, because, effectively, they're sinking or they're disappearing as a result of climate change, to what extent are those islands liveable at the moment?

UR: You can live on the islands, but it's almost impossible for anyone to grow food and sustain their families. At the moment, as I'm speaking, people are going without food. They could even drink a coconut for a day and that will hold them. It will not work. It's human rights abuse. If you are really looking at people sustaining themselves, they are not able to do that. It's impossible.

DW: So there are lots of people who want to move right now and they can't because you guys are not able to build houses quickly enough 'cause you're not getting enough help.

UR: Exactly. When we started in 2009 there were 83 families who volunteered to move. The list is actually increasing and the Council of Elders on Carterets is giving us a list of names that we cannot manage to deal with.

DW: Are there other groups helping these people?

UR: The Autonomous Bougainville Government and its administration was looking at a piece of land in Buka, but the land is still in dispute and nothing has actually happened.

DW: So at this point, for your group, Tulele Peisa, you would really like assistance from wherever, I suppose, to get this project happening more quickly?

UR: We will definitely need support for this project to move quickly because we've got over 83 families who have volunteered to move to the four sites that we have. The Catholic church has gifted four land areas on mainland Bougainville where we want to move our people into. But we cannot move these people unless we are providing shelter, equitable shelter, for the families to move in so that they can then sustain their own lives by making gardens, growing cash crops to basically bring a small income into the family.