We directly address unsustainable development in the remote Santo Mountain Chain Biodiversity Hotspot, my home, and the location of over 42 remote indigenous villages that depend on a healthy environment as a source of food, water, traditional medicine, building materials and cultural identity. The Government is promoting commercial agriculture, including mechanization and large-scale clearing for plantations as a way increase household incomes, but with devastating consequences on our pristine environment. The government’s approach is also promoting non-food cash crops, like kava (an export drug) which has negative social and cultural impacts when consumed by local youth.
Local Youth are calling for more sustainable agriculture, aligned with traditional approaches to food production, yielding healthy local foods and minimizing the destruction of our tropical rainforests. But the government isn’t listening.
Our Awesome project is an innovative approach to challenge the status quo. Indigenous youth will weave their pro-environment written messages into the Pandanus leaf mats traditionally made by our mothers, grandmothers and traditional ancestors. Mats hold particular significance in Vanuatu, and are used as a peace offering and a medium to solve local disputes. Our traditional “message mats”, will be delivered to decision-makers in the Provincial and National Government, and will challenge unsustainable practice, revitalize indigenous art, and bring our remote communities into new policy dialogues in a way that is culturally sensitive and respectful.
Once the mats are delivered, the Youth will hold a Zoom call with the Prime Minister (on a satellite connection installed in January 2021 at the local high school) to request specific changes to Ministry of Agriculture policies that are incentivizing environmental destruction.
We believe that our Youth-driven environmental activism, based on the foundation of our traditional indigenous art will inspire others.
Funded by Awesome Without Borders (April 2021)