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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

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Kiribati To Buy 6,000 Acres Of Land In Fiji For Food Security
President Tong says land is for food, not for relocation

By Mereseini Marau

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Feb. 4, 2013) – The government of Kiribati will buy about 6,000 acres of land near Savusavu in Fiji for its food security as the country has started feeling the effects of the rising sea level.

And it will ensure that it protects whatever part of Kiribati that can be saved from the wrath of climate change.

In an interview, Kiribati President Anote Tong who was in New Delhi for the 12th Delhi Sustainable Development Summit, said the last thing he wanted was for people to panic.

"We are buying this land in Vanua Levu, near Savusavu, to address our food security and not for the relocation of our people," he said.

"The survey is concluded and we are now waiting for the approval of the Minister of Lands."

Mr. Tong who has been advocating about the adverse effects of climate change in his small island state said that a whole community in Kiribati had relocated and the frequency of those relocating was more often now than before.

"We don't want our people to panic," he reiterated. Mr. Tong said they were training people on what to expect if they were to relocate.

"We are not picking them up and relocating them. We are training them and they have a choice if they want to move."

Mr. Tong said they did not want people to say they relocated because of climate change but because they had a choice to do so. With some of the islands on the verge of sinking in Kiribati, the first citizen of that small island state said everyone accepted that they could not save all their islands by building them up.

But, he said, that they would do everything they could do to ensure that they did not lose their nation to the rising sea level.

"We have accepted that we can't keep everyone in Kiribati, some will have to relocate. Relocating the whole country is our last option.

"We will try and build up some of our islands, but we can't do that for all. Nobody is going to give us the money to build up all our islands," he said.

Mr. Tong said at the moment, the government of Kiribati was looking at other options like securing their food sources.

"We are importing a lot of our food crops because our food crops are affected," he said. "So the land near Savusavu is an investment which we hope to help in our food security."

Fiji Times Online: http://www.fijitimes.com.
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