The Women in Meteorology Awards were presented to Ms. Wotlolan and Ms. Mala for their services to Vanuatu. Photo: William Worwor, VMGD.

The Vanuatu Meteorology and Geohazards Department (VMGD) celebrated two significant international events last week at Nerenuman community on Mota Lava island – the 2021 World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Day and the International Women’s Day – Women in Meteorology.

Every year on 23 March, the WMO Day is celebrated across the world. It showcases the essential contribution of National Meteorological and Hydrological Services to the safety and wellbeing of society.

In Vanuatu, the 2021 WMO Day was celebrated for the first time outside of the capital, Port Vila with the communities in Mota Lava Island, directly benefiting more than 1,500 people . The WMO day in Vanuatu was part of a two weeks-long program to celebrate International Day of Forests, World Meteorological Organization Day, International Women’s Day – Women in Meteorology, World Water Day, and Consumer Rights Day.

The event attracted the whole local community audience such as Chiefs, Women, Youth, Disability groups and young children/schools as well as compliments and positive comments from them. Government delegations from Port Vila representatives from Department of Forests (DoF), Department of Water Resources (DoWR), Vanuatu Meteorology and Geohazards Department (VMGD), Department of Environment Protection and Conservation (DEPC), Department of Climate Change (DoCC), Reserve Bank Vanuatu, Telecommunications Radiocommunications and Broadcasting Regulator (TRBR) and The Utilities Regulatory Authority (URA), the TORBA Provincial Technical Advisory Group (TAG) also took part. Mr. Sunny Seuseu, representative from the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) was the only CROP agency that attended the celebrations and the on the ground activities.

“The decision to take the celebrations of the WMO Day down to the local communities this year, allows for very remote communities to be actively involved, interact and contribute towards these important international events, furthermore it creates community awareness and visibility on the important services that VMGD provides for the benefit of our communities,” said Mr. Montin Romone, Director of VMGD.

The WMO theme for this year’s celebrations is “The ocean, our climate and weather”. The theme considers not only the importance of climate and weather to our society and the natural environment, but also the essential role the ocean plays in our sustainable development, socio-economic and livelihoods. It also marks the first year of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030).

Amid scenes of celebrations, the official opening remarks for WMO Day was delivered by Mr. Allan Rarai, Manager, Climate Division, VMGD on behalf of the Director Romone.

‘’This year’s celebrations are very special as we mark the starting of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for sustainable development, a special body that will study the ocean and provide information to communities,” said Rarai.

“This year’s theme emphasises the importance of understanding the link between ocean, climate and weather. Vanuatu will contribute to this study through different projects. For the first time in Vanuatu, VMGD with the support of GCF, SPREP and Van-KIRAP project partners will establish an ocean observation network.

“This year also recognises Women in the field of Meteorology. TORBA provincial Met Station was managed and operated by two women. This year celebrations also recognises their contribution to the Meteorology.”

Mr. Rarai added VMGD is pleased to install a new automatic rainfall station in Mota Lava on government lease lands in April. This new station will complement the nearby stations in Sola, and record hourly rainfall observations and transmit it to the VMGD Headquarters in near real time. The new data stream from this location will help VMGD and other agencies to track severe weather events such as tropical cyclones and other natural hazards posing imminent threat to Vanuatu.

The WMO Day activities included a range of engagement approaches from Panel Discussions, Interactive presentations and Q&A sessions, School and student quizzes, Field trips, one to one and face to face engagements inside display booths, the screening of weather and climate animations, short videos on community-based early warning systems for cyclones, droughts, volcanoes, earthquakes and tsunamis. Entertainment was provided to soften the mood in between the formal sessions and allowed for the participants to have fun and enjoy themselves.

‘’Bringing WMO Day to the Outer Island communities is well very much in line with the Vanuatu government decentralisation policy and Mota Lava island communities were being blessed with abundance of information during the four (4) days event,” said William Worwor, Chairman of the Organising committee.

“Special Credit to the organising committee Molu Bulu — DoWR, Roger Jimmy-TRBR, Kalkoa Samson-TRBR, Presley Dovo-DoF, Steward Vores –AA and Haines Dini-DoWR for their tireless efforts in putting the event together.

He also acknowledged the very positive support from the President, Councillor of Motalava, SG and TAG members of TORBA province, Chiefs, Community leaders, individuals and especially Nerenuman community for being a great host.

In celebration of Women in Meteorology, VMGD also acknowledged two female staff, Ms. Alvin Wotlolan and Ms. Shina Mala who are currently serving at the Sola weather observation station. Ms Wotlolan was employed by the Vanuatu Government back in 2006 as a weather observer. Since 2018 she was promoted to a Senior Met Officer position and has being managing Sola station ever since.

Ms. Mala jointed VMGD in 2019 on a temporary basis and VMGD is very fortunate to have her permanent appointment last year 2020 as a weather observer. Ms Wotlolan and Ms. Mala were presented with awards for their outstanding service.

The management of a meteorological station by only women is unique and extraordinary. In the Pacific region, there is no other observation station that is managed and maintained by only women, except for Sola weather observing station in TORBA Province, Vanuatu. In that light, the TORBA station is very special. The Sola weather observing station is one of the best observations’ stations in the country, providing key climate and weather observational data for the generation of weather forecast bulletins and seasonal climate forecasts. The recognition of the two female staff and their active service in meteorology is a milestone achievement.

The Vanuatu Klaemet Infomesen blong Redy, Adapt mo Protekt (Van-KIRAP) project provided funding support for the 2021 WMO day in Vanuatu, and will continue to support VMGD in building its technical capacity to harness and manage climate information, support enhanced coordination and dissemination of tailored information, enhance climate information services (or CIS) information and technology infrastructure; and support the application of relevant CIS through real-time development processes, for more resilient outcomes. Furthermore, the project has a focus on addressing information gaps and priority needs of target beneficiaries at national, provincial and local community levels across the five priority sectors such as agriculture, fisheries, tourism, water and infrastructure. Van-KIRAP is funded by the Green Climate Fund and jointly implemented by VMGD and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).

The planning for the 2022 WMO Day has started and VMGD and its partners are taking into consideration the lessons learnt and community feedback from this year’s celebrations.