VANUATU, Abwatuntora, North Pentecost - May 2009
Construction of a Nakamal (Chiefs' Meeting House) in exchange for the extension of an established 185-acre marine reserve as no-take for an additional minimum duration of 10 years
The Province of Penama consists of three islands: Pentecost, Ambae and Maewo, located north of the Vanuatu group. Pentecost is known for one of the most remarkable customs in all of Melanesia, the Naghol, where men make spectacular leaps of courage from high towers built from tree trunks as a gift to the gods to ensure a bountiful yam harvest. The island is the most populated in the Northern Province; however, the people continue to preserve their traditional way of life where survival depends on subsistence farming and traditional fishing. Towards the northern tip of Pentecost Island is Abwatuntora, one of the biggest communities in the area under the leadership of paramount chief Edward Rau. In 1999 Chief Rau led efforts by the community to preserve a portion of their coastal fishing ground covering approximately 185 acres as a no-take marine reserve for a period of 10 years. The marine reserve has been respectfully observed to the present day though there is no recognition from the government to support such an initiative. Abwatuntora has a population of over 300, mostly adults who have a strong respect for its chiefly systems. The community's traditional meeting house, known as the Nakamal, is in need of replacement. Seacology will fund the construction of a new meeting house as well as a water tank in exchange for the community extending the marine reserve for another 10 years.
UPDATE August 2009 - As of July 2009 one water tank is in place. Shipment of the materials for the meeting house was delayed due to the shipping charter company being overloaded because of an independence celebration on July 30, but most materials had arrived by mid-August. The project site is currently being prepared by the project manager with foundation work to begin the last week of August.
UPDATE October 2009 - As of September 2009 all the materials have arrived at the site. The building is completed up to roof height however work has been temporarily suspended due to a lack of water. The MPA is intact and two signs are waiting to be installed once the chief decides on the best locations. As of October 2009 the building has been completed and the official opening will be held on November 13.
UPDATE December 2009 - Field representative Kevin Tari attended the official opening of the meeting house on November 20. He reports that the building was successfully completed, including the bathroom and kitchen. The MPA signs were installed at the beachfront at both ends of the MPA in early December. For more details see the project update.
UPDATE June 2010 - As of June 2010 Kevin reports that there have been three community meetings, 2 church meetings, 1 local scout meeting and 1 provincial ward area meeting since the opening of the Nakamal. The MPA remains intact.