There is a growing concern amongst the Fijian indigenous communities about the impact of climate-forced relocation on culture, heritage and traditions.
The Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of iTaukei Affairs Pita Tagicakirewa says they have identified this as an issue following the relocation of six indigenous communities over the past 10 years.
Tagicakirewa says the Ministry of iTaukei Affairs is working closely with key stakeholders to ensure that culture and traditions are upheld when villages are forced to relocate.
“Everyone should be burdened by this. Foremost the Ministry of iTaukei Affairs and that is why as part of our national cultural policy and our heritage policy we will try and roll out a communication plan to amplify the need to preserve, protect and safeguard our culture and our heritage.”
Tagicakirewa says relocating Fijian indigenous communities from a site they have called home for thousands of years requires rigorous consultations and negotiations.
“We believe we have a spiritual connection to our Yavutu (foundation), which is our heritage. I’ve been to Tukuraki, in the case of Tukuraki they definitely exhibit that. Their connection to their Yavutu- Sometimes they go back, because their farm, teitei is still there although it’s confirmed that they need to stop going there. They’re still emotionally attached to their community.”
Fiji is not the only indigenous community in the Pacific region that is dealing with an identity crisis because of climate-induced relocations, as each year a staggering 50,000 Pacific islanders are forced to abandon their homes.
The Fiji government is preparing itself, as more than 40 indigenous communities have been earmarked for relocation due to the dangers caused by climate-related disasters.