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Tower funds Fijian “ecovillage” to build climate resilience

Tower Insurance has agreed to fund the creation of a pilot “ecovillage” in Fiji that it hopes will help villagers prepare for climate change and lead more sustainable lives, there and across the Pacific.

The insurer is partnering with GENOA (Global Ecovillage Network Oceania & Asia) which promotes sustainable living at a local level and is part of the wider Global Ecovillage Network.

Its $40,000 funding will be used to establish a pilot programme in Fiji that will help one indigenous village community transition to a sustainable regenerative eco-community, starting later this year.

Tower Chief Executive Richard Harding says the pilot will give villagers the knowledge and skills they need to not only prepare for climate change but also lead lives that are more sustainable.

“Tower recognises that climate change is resulting in more extreme weather and we are committed to a practical approach to help educate communities and mitigate the impact of climate change,” says Harding. “Extra focus is needed in Oceania where communities face the real threat of more storms and rising sea levels despite being some of the lowest contributors to carbon emissions.”

“As a business that’s dedicated to helping customers prepare for the unexpected, and as an insurer with a 140-year presence in the Pacific, it’s only fitting that we partner with an organisation like GENOA to create a pilot climate resilience programme that can be rolled out across the Pacific.”

GEN Australia Executive Director Andrew Olivier says an ecovillage is a community that's consciously designed to regenerate social, ecological and economic aspects. What makes ecovillages unique is that they also honour and celebrate the culture and worldviews of its community members, making it a whole systems design approach.

“For existing rural communities that means designing their own pathway into the future, combining life-sustaining traditional wisdom with positive new innovation,” says Olivier. “Being an ecovillage is a process not an outcome, and each ecovillage is unique because they’ve chosen their own path.”

“Environmental sustainability is a key focus, but we also seek to strengthen economic self-sufficiency, and create a nurturing community. So, the types of initiatives seen elsewhere include building with upcycled materials, planting food forests, and installing solar energy.”

“In 114 countries worldwide, GEN is working with communities to build climate change resilience, improving food and energy security, restoring ecosystems, and revitalising right livelihoods.”

Olivier says the overarching goal of the Fiji pilot will be to engage with communities in traditional villages and support them to be empowered to take ownership of, and participate in, the ecovillage programme.

Phase One of the programme, already underway, involves researching and mapping existing villages, organisations, projects and enterprises within Fiji with a focus on sustainability, restoration and disaster resiliency. The next phase is to to introduce the ecovillage concept to key stakeholders, and to identify a suitable community that is willing and able to transition into an ecovillage.

"Once we’ve identified a suitable community, we’ll then provide ongoing education and support based on that village’s needs and the issues it faces. Our focus will be on identifying and supporting locally-appropriate solutions that villagers can learn, install and maintain long-term, with a strong emphasis on celebrating existing cultural practices,” says Olivier.

Harding says as well as seed funding, Tower will also provide on-the-ground logistical support.

"This is about Tower thinking globally by acting locally – partnering with a network that’s making a positive impact worldwide, to help a community protect what’s important to them using locally designed solutions. And with a long-term goal to help others in Fiji, then their neighbours in places like Samoa and Tonga, this very much fits our mission to become the Pacific insurer of choice.”

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