Island communities understand importance of data collection

For island communities in Vanuatu, access to information is important in decision making in their daily lives.

A key link is the climate and weather information provided by the Meteorology office and for the island of Ambae it now has an Automatic Weather Station providing timely and accurate data – a transition from the manual observations by weather officers which has been costly to the government and inefficient in terms of inconsistency on weather data recordings.

“This is one of the most important development for Penama Province because accessibility to information is not available and when you talk about communities using information from this place, sometimes it’s not accessible even though it’s close to us. We have been promoting the development of the office, meteorology office, and the importance of the machines here recording temperatures, water and rainfall.” said Georgewin Garae, Secretary General of the Penama Provincial Council.

The AWS at Saratamata in East Ambae is one of six automatic weather stations that the UNDP-GEF funded Vanuatu Coastal Adaptation Project (VCAP) has supported among other priority activities in each project sites.

Garae said the awareness drive at community level has helped raise the profile of the role of the Meteorology office and the data they gather daily. He said the newly installed Automatic Weather Station (AWS) will provide government officials and the community with timely and accurate climate and weather information.

“Now local farmers get to understand that you need to get some information here to help you with farming processes. So people are now focusing on this office not only for weather updates but more to prepare for natural hazards. So in terms of cyclones, volcanoes, tsunamis, they come to this office to get information.”

For Meteorology officer, Hilton Henry, he has the additional responsibility of monitoring volcanic activity from the Saratamata station. The AWS helps him with his other role of monitoring weather and climate conditions, information which assists the forecasters in Port Vila.

“I find it very helpful using the automatic weather station. We can have data that is accurate, we have accurate readings so that we can analyse properly and assist the forecasters with their job.”

But work doesn’t end there for Hilton. The information provided by the AWS is provided to the provincial network as technical advice in the preparedness planning for natural hazards and natural disasters.

“We have the coastal erosion affecting here so I stress this one a lot through reports on the coastal erosion and we have other things like the volcano.”

Saratamata is also home of the provincial council for the Penama Province, covering the islands of Pentecost and Ambae.

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Caption: Weather officer, Hilton Henry (left), at the Meteo Office in Saratamata, Ambae.