Workshop OFC Middle Managers: The Isotonic Power of a Coconut

By Andrew, Director of Spirit of Football

How significant is climate change in the minds of youth leaders in the Pacific? Going on the attendance at our workshop: red hot, excuse the climate pun (credit: Barry Weston). All but one youth leader from all across the Pacific (Samoa, Tonga, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Tahiti, Fiji and Kiribati) signed up for our youth leader workshop. The learnings from this workshop, especially the inputs from the youth leaders themselves, became the basis of conversations around the SDGs, climate change and climate action the following day with Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) middle managers from seven countries across the Pacific.

The Pacific youth leaders had talked about coconuts (one of many examples) being a free and abundant, yet underutilized source of healthy, isotonic drinks in most of their countries. They also identified that young people are often not particularly aware of the rubbish problem in their communities: Drinking a can or bottle of coke and then throwing it away into the environment, when it was empty, is a common practice. One idea, proposed by the young pacific delegates, was to promote rubbish clean-ups at football trainings and for youth to be supplied with and drink coconut water out of coconuts at OFC Just Play football training sessions.

Working on this example with middle managers, we were able to go into more specific detail. Yes, coconuts are in abundance; no, they are not often drunk by young sports people; yes, it is a good idea to use them; no, it is not always appropriate or possible. According to Barry Nawere from Kiribati, and supported by Maria Rufina from the Solomon Islands, coconuts are found in abundance in rural communities and the outer islands. However, in the main population centers there are less coconuts and a coconut is more of an economic resource: A source of income and mostly privately owned. Nevertheless, coconuts, sold on the streets, are still cheaper than a bottle of water and environmentally friendlier, too. Timothee from Tonga said that a coconut can be sold for as much as $10 to tourists – so parents are reluctant to let their children literally drink away this potential income stream.

We were able to connect coconuts to the SDGs. It quickly became apparent that a simple coconut could be used to alleviate poverty (SDG1), and hunger (SDG2) and their isotonic values could help people to become healthier (SDG 3), it could be used as a tool to educate youth (SDG 4) and we were 4 from 4. It was a valuable conversation and one that goes to show that small ideas in a local setting can have much bigger and even far reaching potential.

The workshop, with the help of our friend and collaborator Barney Weston from Football for Future also took on a bigger picture. Barney said that urgent action on a bigger scale is needed to go hand in hand with smaller programmatic action. He pointed out, surprising the middle managers, that both OFC and FIFA are both committed to measuring and attaining sustainability goals, that include carbon emissions reductions, through to 2030 and beyond. It was pointed out that there is also funding out there in the Pacific and to potentially support programming on climate action. The time to act is now.

From coconuts to Oceania Football Confederation climate goals this workshop proved to be useful for all concerned. To put some ideas into more concrete statements, signatures on The Ball came with some great pledges, for example from Maria Rufina, who is the Social Responsibility Manager for the Solomon Islands Football Federation:

I pledge to educate the children to dispose of litter properly.

Maria Rufina, Social Responsibility Manager at the Solomon Islands Football Federation, signs The Ball and pledges at the end of our workshop

Here are some of the other pledges from OFC Middle Managers:

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