Rufina, a grandmother in her 70s, was forced to leave the Carteret Islands in Papua New Guinea two years ago. After relocating to Buka because of worsening land degradation, she still desires to return home.
The area of land available to cultivate in her homeland was shrinking due to the significant rise of sea-level and exacerbated by high population growth. Losing her land presented problems she felt she could only deal with by leaving. Apart from the decline of cultivable land, insufficient access to government services due to poor public infrastructures and the remoteness of her home, was a push factor for Rufina to migrate to Buka. Currently, her source of income largely comes from making various baked goods. With any surplus that she makes, Rufina buys food from the local market to send to her grandchildren back home.
“I go and do gardening in the Hagogohe village where villagers know me. From my harvests I am also able to send kaukau [sweet potatoes] to feed my grandchildren back home.”
Rufina was a well-respected leader and member of the Council of Elders (COE) in the Carteret Islands. In Buka, she continues to take on leadership as counsellor and primarily involves herself in youth and women’s advocacies and activities. Among her many advocacies, she has called upon the government for a safe, reliable and affordable transport system to and from the islands.
Facilitating the mobility of her people to access government services and livelihood options would provide a favorable adaptation strategy to the people of Carterets.
Rufina believes that if the government could address land and housing matters of the resettlement sites, more families from the Carterets could be successfully relocated and establish their livelihood in mainland Buka. In the meantime she is calling for support towards the establishment of a transit house to facilitate the proper resettlement of the environmental migrants.
Despite her desire to live in the Carterets in her entire lifetime, Rufina sees the resettlement of herself and of her people as inevitable due to climate change.
“The island is experiencing unprecedented environmental changes, and the livelihood of future generations is severely threatened.”