Race for Water Odyssey docks in Apia

By Vatapuia Maiava For Conservation International 25 November 2018, 12:00AM

“We are extremely excited to be here in beautiful Samoa and to share with as many people as we can on the importance of water preservation and keeping our oceans clean.” 

These were the words of crew member, Christelle Brigeot-Mathieu, of the Race for Water Odyssey (R4WO) vessel which docked in Apia on Saturday afternoon.

En route to continue their five-year expedition commitment around the world, the R4WO vessel is in Samoa and they bring with them their passion for water/ocean preservation.

So what exactly is the R4WO?

As briefly mentioned above, R4WO is an organisation dedicated to the preservation of water. Guided by the understanding that water is an essential resource for us humans, which is threatened daily by plastic pollution, R4WO aims to promote and implement solutions for this plastic pandemic faced by the world, and prevent further plastic pollution of our waterways.

Through the use of innovative approaches, namely through their mixed solar-hydrogen-kite-powered catamaran vessel, which is powered by 100 per cent clean renewable energy (first demo vessel of its kind in the world using only clean renewable energy such as solar and wind power), R4WO began their five year mission in Lorient, France (April 2017), which will take them around the globe conducting scientific studies to support the preservation of our oceans.

They also conduct necessary workshops, build strong networks, create lasting partnerships, and spread awareness on the importance of sustaining our water while promoting good waste management practices.

Through the assistance of local offices, the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), and the Samoa Imports & Logistics, R4WO will be here in Samoa for the week before heading to Tonga, and then to Fiji.

As they arrived into Samoa’s Marina—SPREP’s waste and pollution advisor, Anthony Talouli, and Schannel van Dijken, CI’s Pacific Islands Marine Program Director and Samoa Voyaging Society President—were on hand to help the vessel dock and provide a happy smiley welcome. 

“SPREP is pleased to be part of the R4WO with partners such as MNRE, Samoa Imports and Logistics, CI, SVS, SCS and others to raise Ocean and marine pollution awareness particularly issues around waste, marine litter and plastic pollution,” Anthony said.

“As Large Ocean States, we are recipients of global impacts of marine litter and plastics pollution. Addressing waste management from source starts with us. Pacific islands are leaders in many ways in addressing waste management. We commend Samoa for its initiative to ban single use plastic bags from January 2019.”

R4WO’s entire Pacific tour will take place from this month until January next year, before sailing off to the rest of the world.

“This is the first time for us to be in Samoa and we are very excited to meet the Samoan people and to explain what we are doing and to know a little bit more about Samoa,” Christelle said.

“We expect to meet as many people as possible and to deliver messages about keeping our land clean for the sake of our waterways and oceans. We want to raise awareness on the dangers of plastics because it’s something we really need to be cautious about.”

Furthermore, Christelle explained that during their five-year mission, they witnessed the dangers of plastic waste first-hand. From turtles chocking on plastic material to beaches covered in plastic waste to the point where no sand can be seen.

During their week in Samoa, R4WO has so much planned.

“We will have a few school visits and we intend to raise awareness towards them because these children will be the generation of change,” Christelle said.

“We will also visit Samoa’s waste management areas and see what you are doing with recycling and so on. We will also maybe bring a response and maybe help with the use of our machine which can turn plastics into gas for electricity which is very ideal for the people because it can bring job creation and energy.”

According to Schannel, who spoke through his extensive experience with similar projects and voyaging around the Pacific, he explained that the concept of using a vessel as a floating classroom and outreach tool to take crucial environmental lessons from place to place is extremely effective and can garner a lotof interest and profile. 

“It’s great seeing a “high tech” version of a floating classroom and outreach tool,” He said.

“This is similar to what we use here in Samoa with our Guardians campaign, using our very own clean renewable energy powered traditional voyaging canoe, the Gaualofa, and its use as a floating classroom to take hands-on environmental lessons and waste management directly to our communities.

“The Guardians va’a based environmental education campaign has proven its effectiveness in using vessels as not only a tool to highlight and teach about environmental issues, but also as a means in concentrating dialogue around issues, bringing in multitude of partners and facilitating strong working partnerships.

“Just see the success of the Guardians campaign and the pride that it has been built with all the partners that have made it happen. I see this visit with the R4WO to help strengthen dialogue and partnerships around the message of waste and our waters.” 

(Campaign details can be found here: http://www.samoaobserver.ws/en/08_10_2018/local/37433/Guardians-make-an-impact-at-Aiga-I-Le-Tai.htm)

R4WO will kick off their Samoa programme today with an official welcoming before continuing on throughout the week and then depart this Friday.

So come on down to the harbor and make the most of R4WO’s visit to Samoa.

If you are interested in knowing more about R4WO, you can find more information about their work on https://www.raceforwater.org/en/

By Vatapuia Maiava For Conservation International 25 November 2018, 12:00AM
Samoa Observer

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