A vocational training scheme is helping Samoan communities prepare for cyclone season by equipping young people with the skills to repair vital water infrastructure. Nineteen youths from Siumu and Safata in Upolu took part in an emergency plumbing repairs course, a component of Oxfam’s long term strategy to help Samoa not only rebuild from Cyclone Evan, but to strengthen communities’ resilience to future storms.
A vocational training scheme is helping Samoan communities prepare for cyclone season by equipping young people with the skills to repair vital water infrastructure.
Nineteen youths from Siumu and Safata in Upolu took part in an emergency plumbing repairs course, a component of Oxfam’s long term strategy to help Samoa not only rebuild from Cyclone Evan, but to strengthen communities’ resilience to future storms.
When Cyclone Evan struck Samoa in December 2012, the south coast of Upolu was battered. Fales were whipped away by the winds, crops uprooted, property destroyed. Water and power supplies were knocked out and flash flooding causing injuries and even deaths.
New Zealanders responded in droves, supporting Oxfam’s appeal and enabling us to launch an emergency response that ensured the Samoan people had access to safe, clean water immediately after the storm.
In addition, Oxfam’s Samoan partner, Women in Business Development Inc (WIBDI), supplied farmers and their families with the tools and seeds needed to rebuild their lives.
Tropical cyclones are not uncommon in Samoa although they are becoming more intense, more frequently as the pace of climate change quickens. The Samoan Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment recently announced risk of two to three expected cyclones this season (November 1 to April 30), with possibility of a category four storm, which is stronger than Evan, a category three. Upolu’s South coast is likely to bear the brunt — just as people get back on their feet nearly one year on from Evan.
A critical part of Oxfam’s work is to make sure these people aren’t knocked back down. We focus on strengthening communities’ resilience to natural disasters, striving to ensure that people vulnerable to cyclones have any risk to their livelihoods and safety minimised, and that the opportunities and capacity to build back their lives is maximised. Preparedness is key.
Plugging a gap
|Tui Palaamo (far right) with his the trainee plumbers. Each student will take home one of the tool boxes pictured so they are fully prepared to put their skills in action following a cyclone|
For most of 2013 Oxfam ran a Water, Sanitation and Hygiene education (WASH) programme in Siumu and Safata funded by the EU, installing tailored latrines and water tanks to families affected by Cyclone Evan. This was where the cyclone hit first and worst and where the need to build resilience is greatest. This is where people’s preparedness can be a matter of life and death, of destruction or reconstruction.
It was here among the fales and swaying palms of the south coast that a ten day emergency plumbing course was held. Forming part of Oxfam’s EU funded resilience programme, the course was run through the Australia Pacific Technical College (APTC).
The aim of the course was to end up with a group of people armed with the knowledge and capacity to respond to plumbing needs and emergencies following a cyclone.
It was led by Aatui [Tui] Palaamo, 56, a local man with many years of plumbing experience under his tool belt. Tui explains what the course involved:
“This is the first time these young people have received training of this kind. They learn about stopping taps dripping, replacing tap washers, flushing systems, sinks and basins. It’s a mix of classes and on-the-job training. Students go out into the field in groups of four so they can learn from and support one another. So far they have been installing water pipes and latrines, as well as small domestic jobs. The students’ biggest job was fixing a burst pipe at a local primary school. There is a lot of work here, caused by Cyclone Evan.”
|Tuaoloa Fausaga, 18 and Siitu Peleti, 27|
Siitu Peleti, 27, took part in the course, keen to improve his confidence in English, learn a skill and provide a valuable service to his village. He is proud to have completed his training and will head back to his village with his head held high:
“I’ve really enjoyed this course, I’m a plumber now, I can go back and help my community. They will be prepared when a cyclone comes.”
It’s not just skills the students are taking back to their village. Siitu and his classmates are returning to their homes equipped with new toolboxes packed with essential tools needed to carry out their jobs, including pliers and handsaws. They also keep their new work boots and protective gear.
Oxfam’s community-based approach means that Fa’a Samoa (the Samoan way) underpins all our programme work in Samoa. We work to benefit aiga (a concept similar to whanau), communities, not just individuals. So it was local matai (community chiefs) who identified the most vulnerable families to include in the plumbing course. The matai were also responsible for selecting two young people from each of Siumu and Safata’s villages, ensuring a fair spread of plumbers in the region.
The village matai and other authorities can now call upon these 19 young plumbing trainees in an emergency situation to repair facilities and water supplies in their homes and villages. They are on the front line of recovery, ready to rebuild and keep communities supplied with water during, and after cyclone season.
- Find out more about Oxfam’s work with communities in Samoa