6 – 7 July 2010
S8 05.899 E156 51.680 – WorldFish Center, Nusa Tupe & Gizo Airport
S8 07.515 E157 06.123 – Onma Lodge, Kolombangara
The April 2007 earthquake and tsunami wrecked havoc to the lives of many in the Western Province of the Solomon Islands. Foreign aid and rebuilding was slow and difficult, but the people of the Western Province persevered and rebuilt their lives from scratch. We visited a facility called the WorldFish Center (formerly known as ICLARM) interestingly located on an airport island called Nusa Tupe found 15 minutes boat ride from Gizo town. WorldFish Center conducts marine livelihood workshops and training to aquaculture farmers found throughout the Western Province. For the past three years, WorldFish in collaboration with WWF Solomon Islands and NZAid have given training to communities in and around Gizo to culture giant clams and coral fragments. These training and support has created rural livelihood projects in the form of culturing sustainable marine ornamentals for the aquarium trade.
One such aquaculture farmer who received training from WorldFish is Erik Koti.
With the assistance of WWF, he and his family built Onma Lodge in Kolombangara in 2007. They had just finished the construction of their first bungalow when the tsunami struck and they lost almost everything.
Right before the earthquake, the dogs barked and ran away to higher ground; their clucking chickens flew to the tree top. When they saw the waters recede from the bay, they left everything and ran to the hills 50 meters above sea level. Since the epicentre of the quake was in this area, the water gradually came in and did not hit in big waves. But it reached the height of about 3 meters and for 6 – 8 hours, water inundated their entire property destroying their homes and livelihood.
Three years after the tsunami disaster, Erik Koti and his family are still building Onma Lodge. We stayed in their new bungalow by the jetty and had a wonderful time with Erik and his wife, his daughters, son-in-law and his grandchildren. He has an incredibly charming coral and clam garden all around his jetty. Without getting wet, we could see the diversity of marine life just by sitting there. Bliss.
With the Koti family, we experienced authentic Solomon Island hospitality peppered with so much laughting and eating. The welcome drink of lemon juice was addicting, I kept asking for more! And we enjoyed homey food like crispy sweet potatoes and yam cooked with hot stones from a traditional motu stone oven!
Life in the Koti village is simple. Water comes from the well, food fish is caught from the ocean and home grown vegetables harvested from their gardens. The rebuilding after the tsunami was incredibly hard work but they are slowly and positively rising above the calamity. When we were there, the generators were turn on the whole night for the menfolk to watch the World Cup semi-finals!