Vanuatu is among the most vulnerable countries on earth to the effects of climate change. These include extreme weather events, natural disasters and the long-term effects of slow-onset events, such as sea-level rise and ocean acidification.

The VMGD works alongside the Vanuatu Klaemet blong Redy, Adapt mo Protekt or Van-KIRAP Project.

RNZ Pacific speaks with some of the team members at the VMGD and Van-KIRAP about the projects they are working on.

Women help to lead the way at the VMGD

Moirah Matou is the Vanuatu Met Service’s first female weather forecaster, and has been with the department since 2006.

“When I started, I was the only female forecaster…so it was quite interesting and a change to my career.”

She said when she first started, she was working with five other male weather forecasters.

“The work was quite interesting, and I also had to get used to working shifts.”

Before Matou joined the department, she was a science teacher, something she enjoyed.

“Back in the mid-2000s there was a call out for weather forecasters — they needed to upgrade the level of weather forecasters, and anyone who was in the science field with a graduate degree was qualified to be a weather forecaster.

“I felt I needed some background knowledge or experience of how the science that I’m teaching could be applied in other areas, and with the hope I can go back to teaching someday and inspire the younger generation, that this is a career path that you can choose.”

When she was growing up, career paths for women with a science background were quite limited. She now wants to show young people that a background in science can take them interesting places, such the meteorology field.

Matou admits that it is not easy to forge a career in the Weather Service, but with perseverance and hard work, it can provide a very rewarding pathway.

She spoke about the slow increase in the number of female forecasters. Since she started, other women have joined the department.

“Over the years, more women have joined the department, either in the forecast service or in the seasonal climate and prediction unit.”

She said that when she first joined the service, her male colleagues were very good to her and supportive as she also had a young family to look after at the time. That encouraged her to pursue her Master’s degree in science, after which she continued to work in the meteorological field, and eventually moved into a management role.

She had been a senior forecaster and then, after her studies, moved to the climate unit, as a senior climate seasonal forecaster. From there she moved again, to the Van-KIRAP as a project manager.

Matou said over the years, she has noticed that trends in the kind of climate and weather events the region experiences has changed.

“I was in the weather forecast for six years and we never experienced a category 4 or category 5 cyclone; it was always up to a category 3 cyclone.”

She said that extreme weather is becoming more common, including flooding.

“I mean, now our airport gets flooded quite frequently. Now, we never used to have that…I can see that changes have taken place and climate change is real.”