PRESS RELEASE: Nikoletan Chiefs Declaratio​n on Climate Change in Vanuatu

Pacific-German Regional Programme on

Coping with Climate Change in the Pacific Island Region



Tanna Island Council of Chiefs in Vanuatu Release Declaration on Climate Change Adaptation


10 December 2013. The highest paramount chiefs from around the island of Tanna, members of the Nikoletan Island Council of Chiefs, have released the country’s first traditional authority declaration on climate change.


People of Tanna Island in Vanuatu are now suffering from the impacts of climate change including declining agricultural productivity from flooding, new pests and diseases, drought, temperature extremes and cyclone damage. In response, the chiefs of the Nikoletan Council of Chiefs, have been meeting with local experts from the Vanuatu Department of Meteorology and Geohazards, USP Climate program, Tafea Cultural Center, Tafea Provincial Government and the SPC-GIZ Climate Change program to discuss and prepare adaptation responses.


Despite differences in belief systems regarding the causes of the changing climate, all chiefs agree that adaptation action is urgently required in a way that brings together Western and Customary science, the church and other stakeholders. Tanna Island’s customary governance and belief systems are strongly in place, and thus the role of traditional chiefs and weathermen is critical to successful adaptation outcomes.


Local weathermen, called “Tupunas”, have an important and widely recognized role in enhancing agricultural production and enabling food security for communities on Tanna Island. Acknowledging and valuing the contribution of these weathermen and other traditional authorities to climate change adaptation initiatives was highlighted by chiefs in the declaration as essential to obtaining successful outcomes.


Another key element of the declaration centers on the use of traditional cropping calendars and practices. Many of the food security problems now being exacerbated by climate change are linked to recent disregard for planting approaches locally suited to the Tanna Island context. The cropping practices used in the past that yielded high production and food security are no longer being comprehensively taught to young farmers, and yields are subsequently declining. The declaration calls for a renewed focus on traditional calendars for adaptation and to maintain island identity in a changing climate.


The Nikoletan Declaration on Climate Change also calls for the promotion and revival of traditional climate adaptation approaches. Climate variability is a natural part of Pacific meteorology, with extremely dry (El Nino) and wet years (La Nina) common phenomena. The people of Tanna have developed traditional coping strategies for these past events which, with revitalization, will also serve to help people adapt to future climate change.

Mr Bruno Keha, Secretary of the Nikoletan Council of Chiefs launched the declaration by stating “we are the traditional leaders of Tanna, and we have a role to lead our people through the challenges brought by climate change. This declaration guides us in our important work towards a healthy, happy and safe future even as our climate changes.”

For more information on Vanuatu and Climate Change, contact SPC-GIZ Climate Change Vanuatu at or visit the NAB online Portal



Nikoletan Deklaresen long Climate Change

10 Disemba 2013

Mifala ol jif blong Nikoletan Council of Jifs, mifala I diklerem se:

· Western science, kastom scientists, kastom lidas, gavmen, jioj mo ol narafala grups oli mas wok tugeta long harmony blong adapt long climate change espesili blong

- usum gud ol lan, solwota mo forest

- preservem ol custom fasin, traditional belifs mo values

· Blong adapt long climate change, evriwan I mas wok folem ol stret stampa duti blong olgeta wetem ol stret responsibol pipol.

· Western systems[1] we oli stap kam lo Tanna oli mas luksave mo wok inline wetem ol kastom system blong Tanna blong adapt long climate change

· Kastom gavanens system blong Tanna I stap longtaem finis mo I givim identity long ol man Tanna. Evri pat long kastom kavanens system hemi impotan, mo ol pat ia oli mas wok tugeta blong adapt long climate change:

- Iani

- Tupunas

- Iaramara

- Kalenda/Nian

· Kastom blong ol difren aelan I difren wetem kastom system long Tanna blong adapt long climate change. Yumi luksave value blong kastom blong ol nara aelan long ol aelan blong olgeta. Yumi mas promotem ol stret kastom system long Tanna blong adapt long climate change long Tanna.

[1] Exampol: nasonal gavmen, provincial gavmen, ol donors, ol projek, missionaries, edukesen, health etc.