Representing future generations

Its time to rise and act now.

Joseph Hing
Naivicula Village 86-year-old village settlement home to over 400 villagers.
UNICEF Pacific/2017/Chute
17 December 2017

For one and a half hours we travelled along the main Kings Road from Suva city until we reached a turn off into a dirt road, driving through dairy and vegetable farms. Amongst the rich greenery, cattle, goats and a few sheep were grazing as we made our way towards Naivicula settlement some 12km away from the main road in Wainibuka district, Central Eastern Fiji. I could only imagine the trauma of having these sources of income and food destroyed and taken away by Cyclone Winston.

As we slowly emerged through the half cut bushes along the dirt road, we could finally see the 86-year-old village settlement of Naivicula. Home to over 400 villagers whose main source of income is vegetable farming. It is also home to COP23 national speech competition winner, 12-year-old Timoci Naulusala. His powerful speech on climate change during National Climate Week in Fiji lifted the spirits of many and reminded us all that we need to ensure the security and wellbeing of our young people and the future generations.

12 year old Timoci Naulusala.
UNICEF Pacific/2017/Hing
12 year old Timoci Naulusala.

Timoci, who addressed world leaders in Bonn Germany, attends Naivicula District School in Tailevu, which was one of many schools severely damaged in February 2016 when Tropical Cyclone Winston ravaged Fiji, taking the lives of 44 Fijians, destroying homes, uprooting families and inflicting serious damage to crops and farms. Since then, some of the students and teachers have been forced to work and study under a tent. The district school caters for 300 students.

Timoci Naulusala is the third youngest in a family of eight. His Dad, Onisimo Sausauwai, is a farmer and his mother, Raijeli Tinai, is a market vendor. Life is not easy, especially after Cyclone Winston. We finally sat down with Timoci and his family in his home where he was helping his mum sort the “Lalabe” (Fern) plants and bundling them up to be sold in the local vegetable market. His mum Raijeli travels four hours up the hilly mountains to harvest fresh “Lalabe” every day. These are sold for $2 a bundle and earns the family FJD$80–90 (approx. US$40–45 on a good day. Before Cyclone Winston they used to make FJD100–150 (approx. US$50–73). The money earned is used to buy food, clothing and other needs for the family.

Timoci and his mum prepare the Lalabe (Fern) plant to be sold in the market. Vegetable farming is the main source of income for the whole family.
UNICEF Pacific/2017/Chute
Timoci and his mum prepare the Lalabe (Fern) plant to be sold in the market. Vegetable farming is the main source of income for the whole family.

Fiji and its South Pacific neighbours remain some of the smallest contributors to global carbon emissions, yet face some of the most devastating consequences of extreme weather patterns. For young Pacific Islanders like Timoci, climate change is a real issue that affects the lives of real people in ways that someone living in the comfort of a developed city who has access to all the necessities of life will never be able to comprehend. Access to clean and safe drinking water, a nice home, and a healthy environment to live in — these are the very things that people all over the world sometimes take for granted.

As the saying goes, “With great power comes great responsibility. Timoci has a lot of MANA (Power) within him after experiencing the wrath of Cyclone Winston and seeing the devastation it caused. He understands that now is his time and his responsibility to tell world leaders, climate change activists, and representatives from UN agencies, civil societies and non-governmental organisations that climate change is real. It is like a thief in the night, it will not only steal, but kill and destroy. If we don’t act now there might not be a future for the entire human race.