Coral Gardening for Climate Change Adaptation in Vanuatu

Published: 13 July 2017
Last edited: 09 July 2019
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SPC/GIZ in partnership with Vanuatu’s Nguna-Pele Marine and Land Protected Area Network, is implementing a coral reef climate change adaptation project focused on coral gardening. Damaged coral reefs are restored, thereby contributing to climate change adaptation and eco-tourism revenue. Overseas visitors are invited to join in this planting activity, which allows them to contribute to a local development issue.


Scale of implementation
Coral reef
Marine and coastal ecosystems
Disaster risk reduction
Ecosystem services
Habitat fragmentation and degradation
Invasive alien species
Sustainable livelihoods
Extreme heat
Increasing temperatures
Loss of Biodiversity
Ocean warming and acidification
Sea level rise
Tropical cyclones / Typhoons
Ecosystem loss
Invasive species
Lack of alternative income opportunities
Sustainable development goals
SDG 13 – Climate action
SDG 14 – Life below water
SDG 17 – Partnerships for the goals
Aichi targets
Target 1: Awareness of biodiversity increased
Target 5: Habitat loss halved or reduced
Target 6: Sustainable management of aquatic living resources
Target 10: Ecosystems vulnerable to climate change
Target 14: Ecosystem services
Target 15: Ecosystem restoration and resilience
Target 19: Sharing information and knowledge
Sendai Framework
Target 1: Reduce global disaster mortality by 2030
Target 2: Reduce the number of affected people globally by 2030


Pele, Shefa Province, Vanuatu


Vanuatu is particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change. The inhabitants of many islands are already suffering from sea level rise and extreme weather events such as hurricanes, droughts, heavy rainfall and floods, and their effects, for example costal inundation, soil nutrient loss, and coastal & hillside erosion. The predicted rise in sea levels, altered precipitation patterns, higher temperatures and acidification of the ocean will exacerbate these risks in the coming decades. This jeopardises the livelihoods of the people, most of whom are engaged in agriculture, forestry and fishing and are thus dependent on natural resources. Extreme weather events also have a particularly detrimental impact on tourism.

Coral reefs are currently under threat from climate change (ocean acidification, increase in ocean temperatures), invasive species (Crown of Thorns starfish) and human activities. This, in turn, affects their role for coastal protection and the island ecosystem.


  • Coastal communities, School Children, Village Women/Girls
  • Visitors to the island

How do the building blocks interact?

Climate change requires holistic solutions. We have found that in the small island communities the links among coral reefs, livelihoods, income generation and climate change are intrinsically linked.  For this reason, and in order to obtain sustainable and successful climate change adaptation, it has been essential to link coral rehabilitation (Building Block 1) to sustainable tourism (Building Block 2).

Involving women and girls (Building Block 3) not only acknowledges their important role in managing natural resources but is also beneficial for coral gardening activities, as women and girls proved to be very skilled and effective coral gardeners.

Each element is essential to achieving the overall goal of climate resilience in highly vulnerable communities.


  • Over 3000 coral fragments have been planted on a variety of submerged structures that proved robust and resilient to severe tropical Cyclone Pam.
  • Eroding coastlines are stabilizing with increased coral health and wave-buffering reef development
  • Planted coral varieties that are more tolerant of heat stress are becoming widespread
  • Coral-associated fish, a source of local food security, are increasing in abundance
  • 7 island villages are receiving sustainable income flows, which are re-invested in local adaptation and environmental management projects
  • Village women and girls have been empowered to proactively participate in a marine climate adaptation activity, a sector typically dominated by male fishermen and divers
  • Education programs with over 500 youth about coral sensitivity to climate change has enabled more comprehensive coastal management among indigenous communities.
  • Increased engagement with overseas visitors has opened doors for other forms of climate cooperation (e.g. sponsoring village water-supply systems, and construction of classrooms).



From 2014-2017, over 3000 men, women, boys and girls have participated in Climate Change Coral Gardening activities organised by the Nguna-Pele Marine and Land Protected Area Network throughout central Vanuatu. The objective of the program is to enable community-based coral reef climate adaptation via an innovative and income generating ecotourism activity.   

“It is a great achievement for Nguna-Pele and for climate adaptation in Vanuatu,” said village leader Carlos Tangarasi. Mr. Tasaruru Whitely of Nguna Island remarks: “For so many years we have been doing climate change adaptation around our homes and in our gardens, but now we are getting under the water and working on climate action there, too!”

The community of Worasiviu on Pele Island has been planting coral with the tourists who regularly visit its bungalows for over 3 years. Community leader Willie Kenneth explained that “tourists are able to snorkel with us to find the coral pieces and fasten them on the underwater gardening beds. In exchange for a financial sponsorship for the community, they will have a little piece of living coral reef here in Vanuatu for them to remember forever.” 

Contributed by

Christopher Bartlett Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH

Other contributors

SPC-GIZ Coping with Climate Change in the Pacific Islands Region (CCCPIR)
Nguna-Pele Marine & Land Protected Area Network