Monday, October 8, 2007

Up the Pacific without a paddle...

The country I was stationed in, Kiribati, is in the news again. You don't hear much from this coral atoll until concerns about global warming are publicly addressed. Considering the highest point in Kiribati is only six feet above sea level, you can imagine what a little bit of melted iceberg might do to their shores (Kiribati doubles in land mass at low tide).

Once again, extreme weather patterns are swooping across the Pacific and as a result, Kiribati is suffering economically.

Southern Kiribati Suffering Through Extended Drought
By By Batiri Bataua in Tarawa
Sunday: October 07, 2007

The southern atolls of Kiribati have been hit by drought. Many fruit bearing trees are affected and in particular coconut, the main economic and social backbone of people living on the outer islands.

Officer in charge of copra trading within the country, Awaki Baare, from the Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Cooperative says the trading has dropped tremendously from the southern islands.

“We used to send money twice in a month for purchasing, but now its only happens once,” he said. “Copra trading with the Central Kiribati and the Linnix (Line and Phoenix Islands) is still strong and ongoing. But Northern Kiribati is gradually reducing.”

Reports from the Meteorological Station confirmed that the southern islands are in a drought season. Rain has not fallen, and if the drought continues, the situation will be critical.

According to Dr. Iete Rouatu, Director of Statistics, this drought period could cause economic and social problems.

“Copra cutters will lose their source of income,” he said. “Islands and church development projects would be affected. Not only that, companies relying on copra would also be affected. The Kiribati Copra Society, which exports copra abroad, the Kiribati Copra Mill, which manufactures coconut by-products, the shipping companies, which provide transport and a lot more.”

Rouatu said it’s an advantage to government because it will spend less money and subsidies, but the worst hit are the people on the outer islands, who rely on copra revenue as their main income.