Brush structures (Te Buibui): Case Study

Name of case study

Te buibui, Kiribati


  • Aonobuaka
  • Kiribati 




suburb/neighbourhood scale

Area / size

Dependant on situation

NbS employed

brush structures/te buibui

Type of NbS

Hybrid living/engineered interventions


The Kiribati Government’s Environment and Conservation Division (ECD) and the villagers of Aonobuaka 


Local community



Design group

Local community

Source: United Nations Development Programme. (2022). On Nonouti, LDCF continues to support environmental sustainability and food security.

Climate change benefits
  • coastal erosion
  • coastal inundation and storm surge
  • Desertification
  • sea level rise
  • soil erosion and landslides
  • Wind / storm damage

Sea level rise, the protection of vulnerable native ecosystems and species, and retaining natural  land forms and shorelines.

Societal / socio-cultural benefits
  • disaster risk reduction and resilience

Encouraging and fostering local knowledge and materials in climate change mitigation, and considering the wellbeing models of local, indigenous communities.

Ecological benefits
  • Mana (pride), whakamana (empowerment), tino rangatiratanga (sovereignty)
  • Disturbance prevention

Te buibui are a natural alternative to a sea wall. Using natural materials is better for the ocean and the shoreline. Seawalls can interfere with natural processes like habitat migration, and can weaken soil or sand around them. Alternatively, te buibui can be constantly maintained, altered and adjusted as needed.

Summary of case study

Brush structures (te buibui) are being employed in Kiribati as a nature-based solution to the standard concrete seawalls, to combat rising sea levels.

The village of Aonobuaka is home to around 350 people, all who will see visible, damaging effects of climate change in their lives. The United Nations’ National Adaptation Plan of Kiribati notes that saltwater inundation poses a huge threat, and that the island nation is particularly vulnerable to climate change.

The country currently receives a large amount of foreign development assistance to tackle climate change; “between 2011 and 2018, Kiribati accessed about USD 54.9 million from bilateral and multilateral sources for climate change and disaster risk management activities” (Government of Kiribati, 2019). However, with this aid, comes a western lens on adaptation strategies. Kiribati, for example, now has a significant amount of seawalls. However, issues have been raised around the efficacy of seawalls in Kiribati, especially in that their hard surfaces reflect the force of the waves and essentially move the erosion to less protected areas (BBC, 2013).

Te Buibui: an alternative method

In 2015, the community of Aonobuaka banned the building of sea walls. The community gathered to create a solution together – concluding that they wanted to maintain the beach naturally, as a community, and with locally sourced materials.

The method has since been encouraged by the Kiribati government as an ecosystem-based adaptation method to combat sea level rise and land erosion. Te buibui empower communities to contribute to solutions to climate change – they can be built with a village’s available materials, by the members of the village. 

Used in collaboration with strategies like mangrove planting and wetlands, te buibui can be an effective method of improving coastal resilience. 

Climate change adaptation has to consider wellbeing models of the specific community it is dealing with. In many Oceanic nations the wellbeing of people and nature is intrinsically linked and the shoreline is sacred. It should be noted that all communities, cultures and countries are different, but in general, nature based solutions are more likely to be accepted than modern, built solutions.


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