The first Erromangan traditional cyclone architecture to be built this century at Ipota village in eastern Erromango was opened on 4 January, 2024.

As traditional safe houses, nimo norop provide shelter for everyone in the community, women, men and children, a statement by the Erromango Cultural Association (ECA) conveyed.

“Nimo norop cyclone shelters are very strong,” Allan Narai, Chairman of the Ipota Community Council, stated. “Unlike modern houses you don’t have to worry about flying ‘kapa’ or the roof caving in, because we build low to the ground.

Using only local materials sourced from Erromango’s rich forests and grasslands, for many young Erromangans this is the first occasion to witness the construction of nimo norop. “This project has promoted cultural knowledge on Erromango and helped us youth learn important traditional building skills now and for our future,” Kinny Norwo, a youth leader, said.

Despite the challenge of having to go further into forests to source materials, due to the damage caused by the twin cyclones of March 2023, the Ipota community worked closely with the ECA and TAFEA Forestry to realise the initiative.

“The whole community helped with building. Women and men contributed to different stages of the construction, from gathering materials in the bush and preparing the foundation to curing logs and rope, constructing the frame and weaving thatch. Everyone has an important part to play,” ECA Project coordinator, Helen Naupa said.

“Bringing the community together through the nimo norop activity is important for both cyclone resilience and cultural knowledge,” Jonah Molou, ECA representative said at the event opening. “We worked with traditional elders to ensure that our cultural knowledge and practices pass on to the next generations.”

The newly elected Chairman of the Erromango Natmonuk Simanlou Island Council of Chiefs, Chief Naling Narua, acknowledged the significance of reviving traditional cyclone architecture and thanked the chiefs, Ipota community, the ECA and the Canada Fund and Department of Forestry for the initiative. He conveyed the Island Council’s strong support to the future works of the ECA in reviving, promoting and protecting the Erromangan culture

The nimo norop construction project is led by the ECA, with financial assistance from the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives. The Department of Forestry in TAFEA Province has also partnered through documentation of traditional Erromangan cultural species, and sustainable resource management workshops.

Vanuatu’s cyclone season runs from November to April each year. The Vanuatu Meteorology and Geo-Hazards Department (VMGD) advises that three to five cyclones are likely to pass through Vanuatu this 2023/2024 cyclone season, therefore community cyclone readiness is important.