Tokelau is located 500km north of Samoa and 600km north west of Pukapuka, where the Cook Islands and Tokelau share a common marine boundary.
In fact, Pukapuka is twice as close to Fakaofo in Tokelau as it is to Rarotonga.
The three atolls of Tokealu are very similar to our own norther group atolls. The atoll nation has a population of about 1500, and a total land area of only 10 square kilometres. It is regularly serviced twice a month by a two-day voyage from Apia, Samoa, and is the first nation in the world to be powered 100 per cent by renewable energy.
In early October, Te Ipukarea Society’s Kelvin Passfield travelled to Tokelau from Samoa as a part of a larger consultation team travelling for the GEF Small Grants Programme. The team travelled on the cargo vessel Fa Sefulu, for consultations on Faka’ofo, Atafu, and Nukunono, the three atolls that make up Tokelau. The purpose of Kelvin’s travel was for discussions related to the Australian Government funded Global Environment Facility Small Island Developing States Community Based Adaptation (GEF SIDS CBA) climate change project.
This is implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and being delivered by Te Ipukarea Society in Tokelau, Niue, and the Cook Islands. The consultation team were ferried ashore at each island for consultations while the cargo was being offloaded, which afforded six to eight hours on each atoll for discussions and site visits.
Formal meetings were held with the Taupulega (council of elders) on each atoll where Kelvin explained the project and asked for some ideas about possible projects for Tokelau with the available funds.
With only about $60,000 available, a decision needs to be made on whether one larger project on one atoll is undertaken, or whether smaller projects could be undertaken covering all atolls.
Possible project ideas discussed related to ecosystem based foreshore protection, improving access to safe drinking water, and improving the quality of the soil to build resilience to the impacts of climate change.
There was also a presentation by two biogas experts from Apia on a proposal for a Waste-to-Energy biogas pilot project for Tokelau. This would be based on utising pig manure and a biodigester to produce methane gas for cooking. The experts, Usufono Fepuleai, and Sose Utu-Fepuleai, have a successful biogas plant in Apia at the Youth With a Mission (YWAM Campus) that they use for demonstration purposes. Cook Islander Tom Wichman has trialled biogas plants using pig waste in Rarotonga in the past, but apparently there are none functioning currently, possibly due to the downturn in commercial piggeries.
The final decision on which projects will be implemented in Tokelau depends on the three Taupulega of Tokelau, with the decision expected early in November.
Te Ipukarea Society would like to extend its sincere appreciation to the UNDP Samoa Office, and in particular GEF Small Grants Programme Sub Regional Coordinator Filifilia Iosefa, as well as the Tokelau Apia Liaison Office, and Loia Tausi from the Tokelau Environment Department, for assisting with logistics for the travel.
Funding was provided by Australia through the GEF Small Grants Programme Global Grants.