Ursula Rakova

Executive Director,
Tulele Peisa

Since 2006, Ursula Rakova has led Tulele Peisa, a non-profit formed by the Elders of the Carteret Islands, to prepare for the islanders’ relocation to the mainland of Papua New Guinea. As early as 1984, the Elders realized that they would need to plan for the eventual disappearance of their seven-island atoll, which lies 50 km off the eastern coast of PNG, due to the impacts of climate change and other geological conditions. Rakova and Tulele Peisa are dedicated to an ecologically and culturally sustainable relocation process, one that includes a pathway to self-sufficiency for the relocated Islanders.
The 2011 Oscar-nominated documentary “Sun Comes Up” gave the world its first glimpse into the challenges facing the Islanders who were called the first-ever community of climate refugees. The 2009 UNPFA/IIED study, Population Dynamics and Climate Change, cites Ursula’s innovative leadership: The work of the group Tulele Peisa (“Riding the Waves on Our Own”) in Papua New Guinea (PNG) is truly path breaking and worthy of close inspection by anyone concerned with finding solutions for climate-displaced persons (see the Tulele Peisa website: www.tulelpeisa.org). Led by the dynamic Ursula Rakova from the Carteret Islands, Tulele Peisa has set out to find permanent housing, land and property solutions for the 3,000-strong population of the Carterets on nearby Bougainville Island. In 2014, Ursula received a UNDP Equator Initiative Prize in recognition of her work.
Rakova’s vision of a sustainable future extends beyond the relocation process. To create a sustainable community, she recognizes that the Carteret people must also be self-sufficient and productive. To that end, in 2014 she formed Bougainville Cocoa Net Ltd, a collaborative of 640 small production cocoa farmers, the majority of them women, which acts as a platform for global export and capacity scaling to meet the international demand for high quality chocolate. It is her intention to fund her continued relocation work and insure a viable future for the Carteret Islanders through the profits from the cocoa exportation, a self-sufficient future that does not depend on international charity.
Rakova holds a bachelor of arts in Social Work as well as a Post-Graduate degree in Social Administration from the University of PNG. Prior to founding Tulele Peisa, Rakova worked with Oxfam New Zealand as a community development specialist.
Rakova has won a number of international awards and has been the subject of prestigious media coverage. In 2015, the Weather Channel hailed her as one of the 25 Smartest Voices on Climate Change. She is a founding member of the international advocacy group Climate Wise Women.