There’s something immensely satisfying about planting a tree. Yesterday, we planted a forest. A mangrove forest, to be precise, on the island of Nanumea. This tiny atoll, lying at the northern end of the far-flung, Pacific nation of Tuvalu and measuring only a few square miles in extent, is home to over 600 people. Descendants of Polynesian seafarers who migrated into the region from the south, modern Tuvaluans still maintain an entirely subsistence lifestyle, bar the few officials that oversee the operation of government-supported health, education and administrative projects.
The planning for our visit to Nanumea had commenced two years previously, when Seacology, a non-profit organizations with which Zegrahm shares an association, had been approached to consider a proposal to provide financial support for the renovation and extension of the local women’s meeting hall and handicraft center on Nanumea, in exchange for the replanting of mangroves on the island. Not only was the aim to assist with women’s empowerment but also to help restore Nanumea’s once healthy mangrove ecosystem, and the myriad beneficial services it provides. It had seemed the perfect match.
Our morning on the island proved to be a highlight of our voyage through Micronesia. After a warm welcome from the village, we visited the freshly completed women’s center, followed by a celebratory feast of local foods and an immensely moving traditional song performance in the community hall. But not before we had the opportunity for each and every participant to plant their own mangrove . . . and contribute in their own small way to the future of Nanumea.