October saw a return visit to Vanuatu with the main emphasis on introducing the sanitary systems project, but the first task was to distribute the goodies that had arrived by ship.
Distribution of sports gear
- 2 teams of football shirts for Womens’ Football in Port Vila – thanks to Nelson Suburbs Football Club.
- 3 teams of football gear heading out to Nguna Island, an off-shore island in the northern area of Efate.
- 5 teams of netball uniforms, bibs and netballs to Vanuatu Netball, thanks to a Marlborough Netball Club – SMOGs – cheers girls.
Early the next day, I was off to Santo. Johnas had arranged to meet me in Luganville, so he could drive us to South Santo in the hired 4WD. The roads to South Santo can be rather tricky to negotiate, with vast sized potholes and several fords and one river crossing that I didn’t want to encounter on my own, so Johnas was in charge on that journey. What an added bonus, Cheryl and baby Angus were in Luganville too, so we all travelled together to Namoru. I needn’t have worried about the state of the roads – they were incredibly pothole-less. Another Chinese Government funded project to improve the road had taken place since my last trip in April. Large trucks could travel the road back into Luganville, after “harvesting” rocks from the Wailapa River (close to Namoru Village) to build a new wharf. The wharf appears to mainly employ Chinese nationals to undertake the work. I would have thought such a large project would have been a great opportunity for upskilling some ni Vanuatu workers, but maybe that isn’t the case.
On previous visits I had observed that the Wailapa River had always flowed very high, but not now. Vanuatu is being ravaged by El Nino and even for villages like Namoru which are inland and closer to mountain ranges and therefore rain, the rainfall has been noticeably less. Whether you believe in Climate Change, the weather changes in Vanuatu (and many other Pacific nations) are causing considerable concern. In fact, the widespread effects of El Nino have put a hold to several of Johnas’ agricultural enterprises. The ground is too dry to plant large quantities of vegetables, and the seeds would be wasted, as are unlikely to prosper. Johnas is hoping to return to New Zealand in the RSE scheme. He has registered with an agent and knows the requirements as he was an RSE worker in 2008 and 2009, working in Te Kuiti and Blenheim. However, Johnas is like the many other ni Vanuatu who wish to come to New Zealand, he has to wait for his name to be chosen for the scheme.
Life in Namoru Village is simple. At the end of the day, the obligatory football match started, and Johnas wore his new football boots that I had given him. He’s a gifted player, having represented the SANMA regional team. It’s a chance for some down time before the sun sets at 6pm.
Despite the lack of significant rain, the family are able to take to the Luganville market on a regular basis, produce from their increased plantings in the gardens. Demand is higher due to the effects of Cyclone Pam and now, El Nino. We loaded up the 4WD in the obligatory Vanuatu-style. Overflowing with organic, delicious vegetables and the Mammas who would “man” the market stall for the next 2 days, sleeping overnight within the market area. I wonder how long this will continue.
Next destination the East Coast. Dry grass and evidence of small roadside fires were unfortunately, common. Cheryl’s family are from Champagne Beach, a well known beach as it is a regular stop off for cruise ships around Vanuatu. I enjoyed spending time with her family and eating aelen kakae . The coastline of Champagne Beach is dotted with small freshwater springs. Cheryl’s family collect water from the springs when rainfall is minimal. I observed the free range cattle were sniffing out the fresh water and drinking it too.
My last evening in Santo was highly entertaining, hosted by New Zealand based, VSA volunteer and his wife, on assignment in Santo. His mission, to investigate value add in the coconut industry. Something I am passionate about.
Part 2 of this journey coming soon.
Mi lukim yu