Fanalei Island - Village Life

Village Sharing

On the 1st of September 2019, I left the UK for Solomon Islands, where I spent six months living and experiencing the simplicity of everyday village life. In my village, different responsibilities belong to women, men, girls and boys. The girls learn their role from older women, and the boys learn theirs from the men. They learn through involving and, in that way, everyone passes on their knowledge from generation to generation. A villager must know about everything since the entire world is in his/her hands. For example, one needs to have the skills of planting and growing different types of crops. A girl must learn to weave baskets and mats. The boys must learn to fish or dive. Learn to build a house with local materials, build a canoe, hunting skills as well as skills for climbing coconut, breadfruit, nut trees and sago palm tree. 

Fanalei Island - Village LifeEvery villager must have a general knowledge about everything in a villager’s world. There is no such thing as specialized work even though some people are and can be more skilful than others. While in the village, I noticed a massive change in people’s lifestyle. I saw the influence of modern technology had increased immensely – the use of mobile phones, solar panels, the internet, water supply, sanitation & transport.  

Village Sharing - This is one of the most excellent values in village life in Melanesia. Everyone shares and helps one another in every village activities and gatherings; for example building houses, crop planting, weddings and funerals. Hence I will always treasure the joy and the richness of community life.          Fanalei Island - Village

Climate ChangeToday the impact of climate change is horrifying. I have seen in the past 20 years to date the unpleasantness it has caused on my late mother’s village of Fanalei and Walande. The shoreline has changed dramatically as well as the weather. It appears there is an increase in irregular rainfalls and floodings, land erosion, bleaching of coral reefs and extremely low tides and high temperature. As a result it changes the way people do their gardening, fishing and living lifestyle.  

Fanalei village was privileged to host a PhD student from Southampton University, Marie Schlenker. The purpose for her trip was to research the impact of climate change and costal hazards on the Solomon Islands. She carried out interviews and participatory workshops with the locals about their insights, experiences of climate change and its impact on coastal areas. She also taught the locals how to do measurements of rainfall, temperature & water levels of the shorelines. My role was the interpreter. Coming from this area myself I was able to help the locals to understand the questions and the purpose of this research. 

I am delighted that this study is taking place in the Solomon Islands where a lot of places are experiencing the same effect of climate change. People who are being displaced from their environment and are forced to move to new settlements which can cause a total change of lifestyle and traditions. They could experience rejection and discrimination from the people on the main land. The other is the loss of certain skills and knowledge from where they used to live.  

In conclusion we are so grateful and thank MMUK and the University of Southampton, for sponsoring Marie Schlenker to carry out this scientific research which will be very useful for the future.   

Kate Pwaisiho – MMUK Trustee