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THIRD NATIONAL REPORT TO THE UNITED NATIONS CONVENTION TO COMBAT

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THIRD NATIONAL REPORT TO THE UNITED NATIONS CONVENTION TO COMBAT

REPUBLIC OF VANUATU

THIRD NATIONAL REPORT TO THE UNITED NATIONS

CONVENTION TO COMBAT DESERTIFICATION (UNCCD)

    Table of contents

    Acknowledgements…………………………….…………………………………………3 Acronyms and Abbreviations………………….…………………………………………4 Executive Summary…………………………..………………………………………..6 Background……………………………………….………………………………………8 1.0 Strategies and priorities established within the framework of national sustainable

     development plans and policies…………………………………………………………101.1 The Constitution of the Republic of Vanuatu……………………………………….10 1.2 Land Leases Act CAP.163)…………..……………………………………………...10 1.3 Vanuatu National Forest Policy 1997……..…………………………………………11 1.4 National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan 1997.………….…………………...11 1.5 Forestry Act No. 26 of 2001……….………………….……………………………..11 1.6 Water Resource Management Act No. 9 of 2002……..……………………………..11

    ……….…….12 1.7 Environmental Management and Conservation Act No. 12 of 2002.

    2.0 Linkages between NAP and existing strategies…………………….………………..12 3.0 Institutional arrangements to implement UNCCD in the country….………………..12 4.0 Partnership arrangements and stakeholder participation…………….………………13 5.0 Information management and dissemination……….……………….……………….14 6.0 Legal and regulatory framework…………………………………….………………15 7.0 Land tenure issues…………………………………………………………………...15 8.0 Status of awareness raising and specific needs……………………………………...16 9.0 Technology development……………………………………………………………18 10.0 Promotion of traditional knowledge and role of educational institutions………….18 11.0 Monitoring and evaluation in the implementation of land degradation programs

     and initiatives………………………………………………………………………20 12.0 Involvement of regional and international partners………………………………..21 13.0 Renewable energy………………………………………………………………….21 14.0. Sustainable land use management…………………………………………………23 15.0 Early warning systems for food security and drought forecasting…………………25 16.0 Financial mechanisms………………………………………………………………25 17.0 Technical cooperation………………………………………………………………28 18.0 Use of scientific and technical information………………………………………...28 19.0 Environmental Impact Assessments: Challenges and constraints………………….29 20.0 Capacity building…………………………………………………………………...30 Conclusions and recommendations………………………………………………………31 Annex…………………………………………………………………………………….34 References……………………………………………………………………………......35

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Acknowledgements

     This report was only made possible by the considerable financial assistance of the UNDP and the report was prepared by Leah Nimoho of the Vanuatu Environment Unit and Ernest Bani of Bani‟s Environmental Consultant. Special thank you goes to Peter Kaoh

    from DSAP Vanuatu who provided the photograph for the cover page, Primrose Malosu for providing the documents from the VEU library and the Statistics Office for the map of Vanuatu. Thanks are also due to the many who supplied information for this report. The draft version of this report was reviewed by a selected number of participants from the government and non-government organizations in a meeting in Port Vila in June 2007, whose comments have been incorporated wherever possible.

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    Acronyms and Abbreviations

    ADB Asian Development Bank AusAID Australian Aid BOM Bureau of Meteorology

    CIDA Canada International Development Assistance DESP Department of Economic and Sector Planning DARD Department of Agriculture and Rural Development

    DSAP Development of Sustainable Agriculture in the Pacific

    EIA Environmental Impact Assessment EMC Environment Management and Conservation Act EU Energy Unit (of the Government of Vanuatu) EU European Union

    FAO Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations Forsec Forum Secretariat GEF Global Environment Facility GIS Geographical Information Systems

    GoV Government of Vanuatu

    IBSRAM International Board of Soil Research and Management

    INC Initial National Communications ISDR International Strategy for Disaster Reduction

    JICA Japan International Cooperation Agency kW Kilo-Watt (Thousands of Watts of power) kWh Kilo-Watt-Hour (Thousands of Watt Hours of energy) LDC Least Developed Country LMPC Land Management Planning Committee

    LUPO Land Use Planning Office NACCC National Advisory Committee on Climate Change NAPA National Adaptation Programme of Action NAP National Action Plan

    NBSAP National Biodiversity Strategy Action Plan NCAP National Capacity and Action Plan

    NCSA National Capacity Self Assessment Project

    NIWA National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research

    NZAID New Zealand Aid ODA Official Development Assistance

    PAA Priorities and Action Agenda (for the GoV)

    PRAP Pacific Regional Agriculture Programme

    PV Photovoltaic

    SLM Sustainable Land Management

    SOPAC South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission SPBCP South Pacific Biodiversity Conservation Programme SPC Secretariat for the Pacific Community SPREP Secretariat for the Regional Environment Programme

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STAP Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel

    NSO National Statistics Office

    TV Television

    UN United Nations

    UNCBD United Nation Convention on Biological Diversity UNCED United Nations Conference on Environment and Development

    UNCCD United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification UNDP United Nations Development Programme UNDESA United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs

    UNFCCC United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

    VEU Vanuatu Environment Unit

    VLUPP Vanuatu Land Use Planning Project

    VMS Vanuatu Meteorological Services

    WED World Environment Day WMO World Meteorological Organisation WPZs Water Protection Zones

    WWD World Water Day WWD World Weather Day

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Executive Summary

    Land degradation is broadly defined as “..any form of deterioration of the natural potential of land that affects ecosystem integrity either in terms of reducing it‟s sustainable ecological productivity or in terms of its native biological richness and maintenance resilience.”(GEF,1999)

Vanuatu is a signatory of many major international conventions such as the United

    Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD), the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. In 1998, Vanuatu acceded to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). The UNCCD aims to guarantee a long term commitment to the parties concerned through a legally-binding document. Its aim is to combat desertification and alleviate the effects of drought on seriously affected countries, those in Africa in particular, through measures that take effect at every level.

    As part of its commitments under this (UNCCD) international convention, Vanuatu has an obligation to report to the Convention Secretariat on the progress of implementing the convention. It is commonly recognized that if this convention is implemented effectively by parties, it would contribute significantly to achieving the goals of sustainable land management and prevent land degradation. This is not always possible particularly for country parties like Vanuatu which have limited systemic, institutional and individual capacity to fully implement the obligations and requirements of the convention and to benefit from involvement in it.

    This international legal instrument is the principle means by which the world community expresses and implements consensus on measures to protect and preserve the environment for the benefit of the present and future generations in the context for sustainable development. The Constitution of Vanuatu reiterates the same principle in Article 7(d).

    Vanuatu is an LDC and access to the UNCCD and the other international conventions, agreements, and other legal instruments is essential for taking the appropriate measures at the national level to translate these accords into action, as well as participating effectively in the progressive implementation of the conventions. As an LDC, Vanuatu has limited technical and financial resources to implement the UNCCD and it will continue to work closely with its technical and donor partners to fulfill its obligation requirements. Raising awareness at various levels from political to individual is an important agenda for the government agencies. It is also necessary to consolidate the traditional knowledge on agricultural practices and involving the custom landowners in the implementation of the convention. Lastly and importantly, Vanuatu must continue to conduct a land use survey urgently to document the current land use patterns and the areas that are severely affected from the different land uses.

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Figure 1. Map of Vanuatu

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Background

    Vanuatu acceded to the United Nation Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)

     in 1998 to be part of the global agreement to combat land degradation. And “Land degradation is broadly defined as ...any form of deterioration of the natural

    potential of land that affects ecosystem integrity either in terms of reducing it’s sustainable ecological productivity or in terms of its native biological richness and maintenance resilience.”(GEF, 1999)

Topography

    The Republic of Vanuatu comprises of over 80 coral and volcanic islands that forms a total land area of 12, 200 km? and a maritime exclusive economic zone of 680,000 km?, with an additional 240,000 km? surrounding the most southern islands of Matthew and Hunter (NSO,2002) in dispute with France. The country is located between latitude 12? and 23º south and longitude 166º to 177º east, some 1,300 km? from north to south in the Western Pacific Ocean (Figure 1). About 41 per cent of the land is undulated lowland areas with the average slopes of 20º ; 22 per cent are raised reef terraces and plateau that are highly dissected by creeks and 47 per cent is high mountainous areas that forms the interior of the islands with slopes of 40? and over.

Climate

    The islands are situated on active tectonic plates and the cyclone-prone, tropical southwestern Pacific Ocean that they are subject to natural disasters such as cyclones, movements of plate tectonics and volcanic activities. The average rainfall is about 2,290mm per year but, are highest during cyclone seasons from November to April every year causing floods that result in landslides on some islands.

Land use

    About 70 per cent of the land area has significantly been used for agricultural activities and human settlement. The highest levels of land use are within the lowland fertile areas including the major flood plains on larger islands such as Efate.

The Status of Land Degradation in Vanuatu

    The major threats towards land degradation in Vanuatu are; the lack of land use planning due to the lack of knowledge on the capacity and complex function of the islands land ecosystem. The increasing human population put increasing pressure on the islands limited arable land areas and that unsustainable agriculture, logging and urban development practices are employed, that the latter is the loss of Vanuatu land integrity through soil erosion and loss of soil fertility threatening food production and people‟s

    livelihood.

More than 80 per cent of Vanuatu‟s population live in rural villages and obtain the bulk

    of their diet from subsistence production systems. Throughout the country, root crops are the main source of food. They are produced by a variety of gardening practices, but most

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    commonly the production is based on a forest fallow of about 2 to 5 years, or grass fallows of shorter durations. Only rarely is land kept in permanent cultivation.

    Land pressure is clearly greatest where there is little or no room for expansion, yet population continues to increase rapidly, for example, on Tanna, Paama and Pentecost. The effect of pressure in such islands is to force crop production to expand into marginal land which is more susceptible to soil erosion, or has lower natural fertility levels; or to use some of the land traditionally retained for other purposes.

Poor Land Use

    Vanuatu does not have land capability information system, which includes the physical

     and biological characteristics of land; its climate, soil, geology, geomorphology, soil drainage characteristics as well as existing land use. Farmers and planners are not well informed to make wise decisions on how best to use their land.

    The Vanuatu Land Use Planning Project (VLUPP) which commenced in 1995 under the Department of Lands with the AusAID funding support, was intended to develop mechanisms to improve the existing land use practices in Vanuatu. The expected outputs and outcomes of the project was not up to expectation of many stakeholders. The information focused on forest resource mapping unit from aerial photographs taken in 986. This information has not been updated since the project was completed in 2000. 1

Urban development pressure

    Increasing development pressure within the islands coastlines, and in particular around Port Vila and Luganville, result in increasing sedimentation into waterways causing degradation of the lagoons, threatening subsistence fishing and major economic activities such as tourism. With the impacts of climate change, coastal erosion is obvious in some parts of the islands causing damage to existing infrastructures and local settlements within coastal areas.

Unsustainable agricultural practices

    Vanuatu‟s very high rate of population growth influences the effectiveness of every

    development initiatives and the sustainability of natural resources. The increase in the population growth has also placed the land and traditional farming systems in very heavily populated islands under pressure. The traditional farming slash, burn and clearing and loosening of soil in subsistence gardening encouraged loss of nutrients through leaching and burning and the soil becomes vulnerable to erosion during heavy rain. (Pers.com,2007).

    Much of the lowland areas are coconut and livestock areas displacing subsistence gardening into marginal land areas of the islands. Further loss of nutrients and soil erosion is encouraged with the increasing population in the rural areas putting pressure for cultivation into steep slopes and areas with shorter fallow periods of average 2 years.(Ibid,2007). Though the impacts of unsustainable agricultural practices were not

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    well quantified, there are local anecdotal reports on low yield of garden crops in recent years, and limited land areas for subsistence staple food crops such as taro.

Unsustainable logging

    Forestry activities provided cash for many rural communities. Forest product export in 1998 was USD 5.168 million. Over 500 people are employed in the forest sawmill

    operations and wood processing industries. Forest cover is 36 per cent of the total land mass of Vanuatu with much of it is invaluable for timber production and little forest pockets hold valuable timber forest stock are often situated on steep slopes. Severe soil erosion on the island of Aneityum contributed to the dying of coral reefs. This is a result of intensive logging operations and burning of grasslands on uplands of the island.

    1.0 Strategies and priorities established within the framework of national

    Sustainable development plans and policies

1.1 The Constitution of the Republic of Vanuatu.

    The Constitution of the Republic of Vanuatu provided the overall administrative and legal mandate for the protection of all Vanuatu lands and other associated environmental resources that;

“All land in the Republic of Vanuatu belongs to the indigenous custom owners and their

     descendants.” (Constitution,1980. Article 73)

“Every person has the following fundamental duties to himself and his descendants and

     to others to protect Vanuatu and to safe guard the national wealth, resources and

     environment in the interest of present and of future generations” (Constitution,1980.

     Article 7(d))

    Sustainable land management in Vanuatu is addressed as an integral within existing Vanuatu national laws and policies that supports economic development.

    The protection of land and all associated environmental resources, for the future generations is a fundamental responsibility for all people of Vanuatu mandated by the Vanuatu constitution. Therefore the sustainable use and management of land is addressed as an integral within existing Vanuatu national laws and policies supporting economic developments.

1.2 Land Lease Act (CAP. 163)

    The Act provides for the creation and disposition of leases on land, their registration and associated dealings with leases. Standard agriculture, forestry, residential and commercial lease agreements have indirect contributions to environmental protection that they can impose conditions for protection of water catchments and prevention of soil erosion.

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