"The invaluable local knowledge far exceeds textbooks"

The island of Kosrae Federated States of Micronesia
Kosrae Islands, Federated States of Micronesia. Photo by Scott Beitz

The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) is made up of 607 islands spanning 2,500 kilometres in the Pacific Ocean.

The country’s four states — Chuuk, Kosrae, Pohnpei and Yap — face environmental challenges including waste management, declining fish populations, rising sea levels and increasing pressure on natural resources.

To improve FSM’s capacity to manage these challenges, Australian volunteers support projects in the fields of law, policy, education, and disaster prevention and preparedness.

Local knowledge “far exceeds” textbooks

As a watershed and fire planning officer for Kosrae Island Resource Management Authority (KIRMA), Australian volunteer Aimee Hall supported the sustainable management of FSM’s environment and resources. Aimee drafted a watershed management plan and community wildfire protection plan. She also introduced drone technology to support environmental monitoring.

Aimee says she grew professionally and personally on her assignment. “The vast, invaluable knowledge KIRMA and the community have of their local ecosystems, processes and pressures far exceeds the knowledge that could be learned in textbooks,” says Aimee.

The residents of Kosrae taught me how to live a more relaxed life and how to slow down and appreciate the present.

— Aimee Hall
The island of Kosrae Federated States of Micronesia2
Kosrae Islands, Federated States of Micronesia. Photo by Scott Beitz

Protecting air, land and water

Since 2013, two Australian environmental lawyers volunteered in FSM to help strengthen the country’s environmental management legal framework.

Australian volunteer Loren Atkins joined the Yap Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2013 as an environmental lawyer. In 2016, Australian Karen Hanson joined the EPA as a volunteer compliance program development advisor, and built on the success of Loren’s assignment, writing permits and giving guidance on organisational enforcement options.

Working with Yap EPA staff, its Board, the State Government and other partners, Loren supported the review, development and enactment of several environmental regulations over two and a half years. Yap EPA’s Executive Director, Christine Fillmed, says Loren’s contribution was invaluable.

“Through this volunteer assignment the agency realised its goal of aligning and strengthening full regulatory scope in its mandate of environmental protection of air, land, and water resources,” explained Christine. “Loren was responsible for over 35 legal instruments to improve regulation of environmental issues.”