Jump to their stories:
Jump to their stories:
Located in the
South Pacific Ocean
Fiji is a beautiful
From London, you
can fly to Fiji in
New Yorkers can
get there in
Regardless of where
you've come from,
visitors of Fiji are
welcomed with a giant...
A warm blessing of
health and happiness
Fiji is a proud
Rugby, football, basketball, cricket, volleyball and athletics are all popular across Fiji.
But the country is facing
its toughest challenge.
75% of Fiji's population live in coastal areas.
But Fijians are not standing still.
"Unless the world acts decisively to begin addressing the greatest challenge of our age, then the Pacific, as know it, is doomed"— Frank Bainimarama, Fijian Prime Minister
because global support is
the only way forward.
The average number
of Fijians pushed
into hardship due to tropical cyclones
and floods (per year)
This number is
predicted to increase
(per year) by 2050.
Tropical Cyclone Winston was the largest ever storm recorded in the Southern Hemisphere.
Around 60% of
And it cost
20% of Fiji's GDP.
"I don't want to show
self-pity because I'm
leading. All the others
are looking up to me."
King tides and storm surges, together with rising sea levels also pose a major threat to Fiji's way of life
Most global models
suggest a rise of
centimeters by 2100.
It's difficult for anyone to
imagine how life might be like in 80 years,
Like many coastal villages, rising sea levels, storm surges and coastal erosion threaten the way of life here.
"If the weather changes all of a sudden, it can reach up to here [knee height] and post this house. I don't know what to do if this house is destroyed. I don't know where we will go."— Catalina Read more about Vunisavisavi
Over the next 10 years,
Fiji needs investments
(US$4.5billion) to significantly reduce the country's vulnerability to
Its future relies on
drastic action to
Rai's surname — Tabusuro — means 'no surrender'. He made sure all houses in his village were rebuilt after Winston before starting his own.
But they can't do this alone.
Will you join our call for
drastic global action on
"Winston showed me in Fiji that people care for each other, there is peace and harmony between each other and they do care about one another."
Asmita Kamal, 24, is a teacher at Bayly Memorial School in northern Viti Levu. She grew up in a large family in Dugaratu, a remote village near the town of RakiRaki.
"This part of Fiji is very peaceful and people are loving and caring. My family have been living here for three generations, a very long time, this is where my grandfather was born."
Asmita has been teaching for two years and gets great satisfaction from her work.
"I wanted to become a teacher firstly to fulfill my parents dreams and secondly to be in a noble profession. I like controlling the young minds and moulding them to be good citizens."
During her first term of teaching, Cyclone Winston hit. It devastated Bayly Memorial School and completely destroyed Asmita's family home while she was inside, hiding under a table with her elderly grandmother. The rest of her family lay under a bed.
Asmita's heart broke further when she returned to her classroom. The roof was gone and all of the furniture, books and supplies were destroyed.
"I just felt like crying after seeing the school. This school was beautiful. Suddenly it was not safe for the students to come and study in the school. All the students and teachers were relocated."
Bayly Memorial School reopened six months after Cyclone Winston but rebuilding works continue to bring the school back to the condition it once was. Asmita has noticed a different level of interest in her climate change classes amongst her students.
"Since they have gone through the experience, they are very attentive and they do participate and they do give real life experience."
After many months of living in a temporary structure, Asmita's carpenter father has started construction on the family's new home.
"I'm telling my father to build our house strong."
Photographs of Bayly Memorial School after Cyclone Winston.
A painter puts the finishing touches on the refurbishment at Bayly Memorial School.
Asmita Kamal on the foundations of what will be her family's new home in Dugaratu.
"We lost everything. The next morning, the sun was shining as if nothing happened. It was as if a bomb was dropped in the village because there was nothing left, not even clothes were spared."
After travelling the world and working in the Fijian tourism industry, Raivolita 'Rai' Tabusoro, 43, is proud to call Nabukadra home again. "There is no place like Fiji. It's a beautiful place, fresh air and happy people," he says. "There are many things that I saw when I was away. When I returned, I wanted to lift my village to another standard."
Rai was elected and re-elected to various leadership positions in Nabukadra, eventually taking on the role of Village Headman, bringing significant improvements to the community.
"Senior citizens [now] receive social welfare, we improved sanitation, the community has two boats to assist students, and we arranged for a dispensary so women didn't have to travel for sanitary items."
Determined to improve livelihoods, Rai has arranged transport so local fishermen could sell at the markets in Suva, Fiji's capital city. He also invested in honey as an income source for the community, one that requires little effort, no ongoing investment, yet good returns.
Raivolita in the tent where his family keep their remaining belongings. Rai's house will be the last to be built in Nabukadra. He worked to make sure everyone in his community had a new home before he started his own.
"We have the perfect weather for it here. It's a good business. We don't waste of a lot of money buying food or anything, we just buy the box and place it, the bees will go to work."
A small coastal community on the northern coast of Viti Levu, Nabukadra sits below sea level. It is vulnerable to increasing sea levels, storm surges and extreme weather events which may be worsened by climate change. When Cyclone Winston hit Fiji in 2016, Nabukadra was completely destroyed; Rai and his family were lucky to survive.
Today, the impacts of Winston are still being felt across Nabukadra, emotionally and financially. Rai is determined to meet his weekly budgets and keep the community motivated and working together.
"I don't want to show self-pity because I'm leading, all the others are looking up to me. I have to demonstrate good leadership in the village."
Raivolita and his son with piglets he's bred from the pigs who survived Cyclone Winston.
Rupeni and his wife Losena prepare cassava for dinner outside their home in Namarai.
"This is our way of life in Fiji. We live for love, working together and live for development wherever we go. We cannot be passive."
Rupeni Vatugata, 75, and his wife Losena Cagi live in Namarai, a small village in the province of Ra. Parents of four and grandparents of ten, the couple are loved and respected in their community because of their open door and generosity towards others.
Namarai was one of the villages that found itself directly in Cyclon Winston's path when the Category five winds first made landfall. Of the 37 houses in the village, just six remained standing. Though damaged, Rupeni and Losena's house was one of them.
"The first winds blew from the south. You couldn't see when you looked outside — it was like a fog — I couldn't see a single rain drop. That was the strength of the winds, it evaporated the raindrops."
Having lived through Tropical Cyclone Bebe in 1972, Rupeni understood the devastating impact of a tropical cyclone. But nothing prepared him for Winston.
"I thought it was the second coming of Jesus," he says. "Houses were blown away, together with their stilts. The roof flew away, together with the posts. Only the soil was left. I'm not sure which part of the world it was blown to."
After the storm passed, Rupeni knew what needed to be done. An experienced carpenter, he quickly assembled and led a team of builders from the community, gathered debris such as timber and corrugated iron, and started working.
"At first we started building to provide temporary shelters, since there were hardly any houses. Tents came later. We rebuilt our village communally. Everything went well because we look after each other and work together."
In the 18 months since Winston hit Fij, with support from the Fijian Government through the provision of building materials, Rupeni has helped to rebuild 13 homes in his and neighbouring communities.
"Some ask me, 'why do you do it?' This is how I live my life, to help others. I have been doing carpentry for over twenty years and I don't get any payment for it. I do it out of love and to help those that need their houses built."
Rupeni on the building site for one of the new homes being constructed in Saioko village, nearby his home in Namarai.
"When I'm older I want to construct a seawall for the village, to protect the future generation of Vunisavisavi and also to make the people happy."
Catalina*, 11, lives in Vunisavisavi, a small Vanua Levu village significantly impacted by rising sea levels, coastal erosion and extreme weather. Though an ambitious student, Catalina's favourite time of the day is when it's time to go fishing.
"Sometimes I go fishing with my mother," Catalina says. "She catches the bait for me. I jump into the water and spear some fish. When we have enough we stay in the sea for a little bit longer for a swim."
"When I put my goggles on I dive under water and I see sea shells, clam, stones and eels. I love to see fish swimming around me, but the fish and turtles have declined. We just catch enough fish for us. We leave some to grow."
In the indigenous Fijian itaukei language, there is no word for climate change. Like most people, Catalina refers to climate change as visau ni draki, directly translated to 'a change in weather'.
Catalina on the beach nearby Vunisavisavi at low tide.
"When the weather changes then we see that the sea is scary. When the weather is really bad, the seawater can reach my house. It can reach up to here [knee height] and past this house."
Catalina doesn't know what her family will do if their house is destroyed, but she has her own plans for combatting rising sea levels and storm surges in her village.
"When I'm older I want to construct a seawall for the village, to protect the future generation of Vunisavisavi and also to make the people happy."
"We will have a big thanksgiving celebration. The seawall will stop the waves from entering the village. It will give peace and assurance to people and they will no longer worry."
* name changed.
Catalina and other children from Vunisavisavi collect coconuts from the shoreline.
Catalina plays in the water with her friends from the village at high tide.
NOQU VANUA: What's in a name?
Pronounced: Nong-goo Va-noo-wa
Noqu Vanua does not have one direct translation. Most commonly it can be understood to mean 'my land' in a way that extends beyond a physical place to a personal and spiritual connection.
A combination of 'my place' and 'my people' and 'my home', Noqu Vanua is a heartfelt phrase in Fiji and was chosen for the title of the 360 virtual reality film because it encompasses feelings of love, belonging, respect and pride Fijians have for their country and people.
What are king tides?
'King tides' is not a scientific term, but it is generally used to describe extreme high and low tides caused by a chance alignment of the moon, Earth, and the sun and the subsequent gravitational pull on our oceans. Depending on geography and weather, king tides can lead to coastal flooding during high tide.
Though they occur naturally and cyclically — twice or three times each year — king tides are impacted by climate change. Rising sea levels mean extreme high tides encroach further inland, posing a huge challenge for low-lying coastal communities such as Vunisavisavi. Land is inundated by seawater from above while salt water rises up through the ground itself, destroying plants and food crops, and compromising fresh water supplies.
What are storm surges?
Storm surges can lead to significant coastal flooding and are caused by weather events such as cyclones or tropical storms. During a storm surge, water is pushed up onto the coastline by high winds or low atmospheric pressure, sometimes causing significant damage to buildings and infrastructure along the coast.
Sepesa 'Kili' Killmo in front of his newly built home provided as part of the partial relocation of Vunisavisavi. Kili's original home was in his family for more than 100 years. It was demolished due to damage caused by rising sea levels.
Vunisavisavi is not, at first glance, what you'd expect to be the home of a King.
Perched below steep hills, on the south-east coast of Fiji's second largest island of Vanua Levu, Vunisavisavi is relatively unassuming. Tucked quietly into the landscape, wrapped on both sides by the sea, the village is home to just 82 people. To step foot into the village is a privilege reserved for few outsiders.
"Vunisavisavi is the original home of the 'Tui Cakau' and we are proud of that," says Meredani Koco, a retired head teacher who has called Vunusavisavi home for 23 years. "The whole of [the district of] Cakaudrove is named after this place."
Tui Cakau — translated directly from Fijian as 'King Cakau' — is the title given to one of three paramount chiefs in Fiji, a position that's been passed down through fifteen generations. For each Tui Cakau, the responsibility to guard Vunisavisavi is personal, because it's here where the i lālaga vesi once stood; the very first Tui Cakau, Ro Kevu.
Fijian history remembers Ro Kevu fondly, as the son of a demigod and High Chief. Yet amongst these ancestral grounds, all that remains of the Tui Cakau's home is a stone hedge that once surrounded it, the rest has been destroyed by the ever-encroaching sea. Physical remnants aside, the deep responsibility to protect Vunisavisavi has not diminished.
"We are the keepers of these ancestral grounds. These lands ancestrally belong to us. My elders were asked many years ago to keep this place, and we've been here ever since," says Sepesa Kilimo, village nurse and descendent of the first settlers in Vunisavisavi.
"We are the keepers of these ancestral grounds. These lands ancestrally belong to us. My elders were asked many years ago to keep this place, and we've been here ever since."— Sepesa Kilimo
Time — and a rapidly-changing environment — has not been kind to Vunusavisavi. Rising sea levels, coastal erosion and recent extreme weather is have left their mark here: steps sink far too easily into unusually soft soil, crab holes are scattered across the whole village, and even before low tide, there are visible remnants of what were once houses and a church. A large, uprooted Banyan tree sits on the shore, long since lost its footing due to coastal erosion.
According to the Climate Vulnerability Assessment 2017, average and extreme sea levels around Fiji are projected to increase significantly this century. Most models project an increase of 8-18cm by 2030. One researcher Haigh (2017) suggested there could be a mean sea-level increase of 87-135 cm around Fiji by 2100.
Should these predictions come to light, the impact on communities such as Vunisavisavi, which is actually located below sea level, will be devastating. This reality feels all too present for mother of two, Pauline Tikoisuva.
Five years after having their first child, Pauline and her family were forced to move out of their home on the shoreline of Vunisavisavi. The foundations of the house had become unstable due to coastal erosion and storm surges during extreme weather.
"That house stood on the shore for over a hundred years. We had our first child in that home and our fondest memories of being a newlywed couple were there," says Pauline.
When asked how she felt about relocating, Pauline uses the strongest Fijian word for pain: 'e mosi'.
"It deeply hurt my spirit," she says. "We all cried and even though we had a house rebuilt nearby, we stayed until we were forced to move."
Four houses — including one for Pauline and her family — have already been built on the cliff that directly looks over Vunusavisavi. While some families have moved, Pauline and her husband have so far resisted. Instead they stay in a house just 50 metres from their original home, pulled by a desire to stay close to the tight-knit community and cultural connection to ancestral land.
"There is no electricity or running water up there, which makes it hard for us to cook, clean, shower and even fill up the toilet water tanks," Pauline adds.
Eventually, however, Pauline will have no choice but to relocate. Less than five years since moving, their home is again threatened by the same strong waves that destroyed their first home, but at an alarmingly quicker rate. Twice a year, during king tides, waves push water some 200 metres beyond the shoreline under her house and the others scattered along the coast.
"This is a special place, and we will do everything we can to make sure our future generation have the same benefits that we enjoyed, growing up near the ocean on royal ground," — Meredani Koco
Meredani's home is also under threat. With the reality of relocation looming, she knows that Vunisavisavi needs support, and soon. Her greatest fear is that young people will leave the community in search of income.
"The land has been greatly damaged here, a lot of soil has been washed away by the sea water, taking away the fertile part of it," she explains, referring to coconut trees that once grew along the shoreline. Many of the families now have plots of land for subsistence farming away from the community.
"The community will be empty. They will all move to town where they can earn money. People will lose their dialect, their language, all the manners (of Vunisavisavi) and all their behaviours."
Meredani is very aware that Fijians have done little to contribute to climate change.
"We really feel sorry that what has happened has been caused by some others people, by fully developed counties. They are still moving forward, whereas we are still trying to develop and we are being pushed backward by all this."
Despite climate change's growing presence, Meredani believes there is still time, still hope, for the people of Vunusavisavi. She beams with pride as she says her community does not plan to go down without a fight.
"In some ways we feel safe, because we haven't been struck by the big waves, but we don't know what will happen if nothing is done now."
"We have to be resilient: plant more trees, reduce the burning and cutting of trees, and planting more mangroves."
"This is a special place, and we will do everything we can to make sure our future generation have the same benefits that we enjoyed, growing up near the ocean on royal ground."
Children from Vunisavisavi village take the boat to their favourite swimming location, a deep hole in the reef they call tobu (tomb), nearby Cakaudrove-i-Wai, an island off the coast of their community.
Pauline Tikoisuva and her husband in front of the home they currently live, close to the shoreline of Vunisavisavi.
Sunrise over Vunisavisavi.
Our Home, Our People is a storytelling project produced by the Fijian Government, in partnership with the World Bank, Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery and the ACP-EU Natural Disaster Risk Reduction Program.
Encompassing a 360° virtual reality video and this site, Our Home, Our People explores climate change vulnerability and resilience in Fiji through the stories of our people. Combined with findings of the Climate Vulnerability Assessment 2017, the memories, hopes, fears of Asmita, Rai, Rupeni and Catalina show us how rising sea levels and extreme weather impact Fijian people today, and what support is required in the future.
Action on climate change is crucial.
Immerse yourself in Our Home, Our People and join our call for immediate global investment in adaptation and resilience to reduce climate vulnerability for Fiji and other small island states.
Journey to Fiji, through 360° Virtual Reality (VR), immersing yourself in the lives of four extraordinary people: Catalina, Rai, Asmita and Rupeni.
See how climate change is impacting their lives now, and what it could mean for the their future.
This film is best experienced with headphones.
The Fiji Climate Vulnerability Assessment has been prepared to inform investment decisions for the future, and to quantify and enhance our understanding of the threat that natural hazards and climate change pose to Fiji. It uses a new way to assess climate and disaster vulnerability for Fiji to help design climate change adaptation and risk management plans and strategies.
The Climate Vulnerability Assessment considers multiple aspects of climate vulnerability, including infrastructure, governance and financing, socioeconomic aspects and population characteristics, and the environment.
Many of the findings can be applied to other low-lying countries, particularly in the Pacific region, and the methodology used can support the design and update of the adaptation components of the Nationally Determined Contributions of the Paris Agreement.
Climate Vulnerability Assessment: Making Fiji Climate Resilient was prepared by the Fijian government, in partnership with the World Bank, Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery and the ACP-EU Natural Disaster Risk Reduction Program.Download the Full Report Download the Summary Report
Sincere thanks to the team, staff and volunteers that dedicated their time making Noqu Vanua.
|Executive producer||Tom Perry World Bank|
|Assistant producer||Kara Mouyis World Bank|
|Director||Tash Tan S1T2|
|Director of photography||Joshua Flavell|
|1st AD||Alana Holmberg|
|Sound, camera & post-production technician||Tunpitcha Ladapornvitaya S1T2|
|Cultural advisors||Arieta Tora Rika
|Production advisors & translators||Ken Cokanasiga
|Field producer||Eka Yabaki|
|Editor||Tash Tan S1T2|
|Writer||Arieta Tora Rika|
|Branding & design||Heido Romano (with Pacific design elements by Lainee Fagafa)|
With special thanks to Raivolita Tabusara and family, Asmita Kamal and family, Bayly Memorial School including Headmaster Jotish Jadish and teacher Mr Kumar, Rupeni Vatugata and Losena Cagi, and the entire Vunisavisavi community, in particular Catalina*, Meredani, Maria, Kilimo, Pauline, Ioane, Melania, Maretta, Tale, Kostino, Meresiana.
* name changed
Website Design: Denise Dang, S1T2
Website Producer: Alana Holmberg
Director of Photography, Joshua Flavell, sets up a scene with the 360 camera rig at Vunisavisavi, Vanua Levu.