Building resilience through community cohesion

Posted January 19, 2022

Women's consultation in Mejatto, Republic of the Marshall Islands. (Photo: UNDP)


Arbi Rubon
, 68, is not a stranger when it comes to climate change effects and its impacts. Born and raised on Ebon Island in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, he learned about the agricultural landscape from his parents recalling stories from World War II and how the Japanese planted and re-shaped the island during their occupation. When interviewed, he pointed to the Lukweej tree (Alexandrian laurel, (Calophyllum inophyllum): “That tree was put there right where the beach connects to the soil to block salt spray.”

Most of these trees are now threatened with coastline erosion with many leaning towards the water and, in some cases, uprooting and dying. Arbi remembered a time when all the trees were vibrant and provided shade. The Lukweej tree was also used to signal the incoming harvesting season for the breadfruit. “When we saw the Lukweej flower bloom, we knew that we had to begin preparations for breadfruit harvest but due to changes in seasons due to erratic rainfall and rise in air temperature, the two trees rarely coordinate correctly anymore.” 

The main road to and from Arbi's house to town. (Photo: UNDP)


For Arbi and his community, one of the main concerns is also the constant eroding of the coastline due to sea level rise. In his daily biking to town, as he lives about 5.5 miles away on the other side of the island, Arbi has noticed that the road near the airport is eroding quickly.

Arbi and his nephew. (Photo: UNDP)


For him, the only way to build resilience as a community is to build on the traditional knowledge while connecting it with scientific data and evidence. “There is no more time to be ignorant because, even in a small island like ours, we cannot ignore the immense changes, most of which are not encouraging. To build resilience, we need to harmonize not just with nature but with each other.

Arbi hopes that more can be done to ensure that his home in the Island of Ebon continues to pull the future generation back to their roots just as it did to him.

The joint UNDP-IOM Climate Security in the Pacific project, funded by the UN Peace Building Fund, is conducting inclusive consultations in seven sites – selected in a collaborative process with the Government and local stakeholders - to identify the most urgent climate-related security risks and the measures to address them. 


In Ebon, the project team met with two communities, reaching over 150 people. From the consultations, it emerged that sea-level rise and eroding coastlines are the main concerns of local communities. During the mission in Ebon, the project also organized two women-only gathering, in which the key discussion was the allocation of project resources due to influx of such resources and the possible rise in conflict within community members due to unequal resource distribution.

Aerial view of Ebon Island on Ebon Atoll. (Photo: UNDP)


To address Arbi’s and his community hopes, the proposed project in Ebon, Likiep and Jaluit, include trainings to strengthen community capacities on mobilizing resources and resolving conflicts. The proposed activities are aimed at increasing the community resilience by enhancing skills in identifying changing social norms due to the impacts of climate change and how to address them. As a community, the people of Ebon indicated that only a united community can overcome conflict and adapt to the impacts of climate change. The project proposed activities would therefore build healthier relationships for an overall stronger, more engaged and more connected community that will be able to provide innovative and inclusive practices to mitigate climate-related security risks.

Community consultation in Mejatto Island on Kwajlein Atoll. (Photo: UNDP)


In Mejatto, the meetings with 39 community members allowed for an increased participation in climate security dialogue and to collect and validate information at the community level to design and implement pilot initiatives. The project team identified climate smart agriculture technologies as an opportunity for increasing community sustainability and resilience. Together with the local women’s group, which has been actively involved in community led activities for years, the pilot initiative on the community’s garden land will support the growth of short-term crops using solar run vertical tower hydroponics, as they have proven to increase crop yields while mitigating the environmental stress due to climate change. 

Jackson Ruben (Arbi's grandson) is net fishing on the lagoon in front of his house. (Photo: UNDP)


The pilot initiative will not only help increase the sense of community in the island but also to prevent conflict within the community from scarcity of food due to erratic rainfalls and decrease in crop production.

The overall aim of the Climate Security in the Pacific project is not only to provide support through those pilot initiatives at the community level, but also to help set the direction on climate-security risk management for the Pacific region and support the Pacific's governments to design risk management solutions that are sustainable and inclusive - and that can be replicated across the entire Pacific region.

The catalytic nature of the project aims at providing solutions that ensure the inclusion and active participation of women, youth, and marginalized groups, enabling them to design and implement risk management strategies effectively.

For more information:

Giulio Fabris, Communication and Advocacy Specialist - Climate Security Project, UNDP Pacific Office, Fiji | Email: giulio.fabris@undp.org

Yoshiko Yamaguchi, IOM National Coordinator - Climate Security Project, Republic of the Marshall Islands | Email: yyamaguchi@iom.int