Logging is one of the largest industries in Solomon Islands. It makes up about 60 per cent of the export sector. Despite being a huge revenue earner, it has caused substantial environmental destruction to some of the best virgin forests in the Pacific region.
In the guise of the increasing and unsustainable logging in Solomon islands community-based organizations in the West Are’are region on Malaita province collaborated together to save their remaining pristine forests. These community based organizations came up with the Ma’asina Greenbelt Initiative, a conservation initiative that covers tribal forest boundaries of the agreed communities. Currently, the initiative covers about 2 square km. They are looking to expand up to 20sq km in the future.
Lush mangrove forest systems, Are'Are, Malaita Island
Photo and Caption by Patrick Pikacha
The Ma’asina greenbelt is one of the successful conservation initiatives in Solomon Islands and in the Pacific region. It was established mainly to protect the last pristine forests and do away with logging and other destructive industries.
Diinsider had the opportunity to interview one of the Co-founders of the initiative, Edgar Pollard, an environmentalist currently doing his PHD in Public Health, specifically Malaria at James Cook University, Australia.
Photo from Edgar Pollard
How did the initiative come to be?
A few community-based organizations have been involved in environmental sustainability and there was an increasing demand from communities and tribes that wanted to be involved in conservation. They also wanted an alternative to logging. There was also the need to formally connect and have a single body that could channel resources, coordinate and provide a focal point for such activities in the region. Therefore a meeting between key leaders of Waihau, Kwainaisi, HUTCA, and Takataka resulted in the formation of the Maasina Green Belt Innitiave”.
What are your goals?
We have three visions. Our long term vision is to develop a ‘green’ Malaita. Our medium term vision is to establish an office that assists Malaita communities that choose to use the ‘green’ approach to development. Lastly, our short term vision is to establish a team and registered NGO that provides awareness to interested communities in Malaita, assists communities with establishing conservation areas, and writes proposals to seek support for achieving our longer term vision which is to see a Malaita that embraces sustainable development.
What challenges have you encountered so far? How did you overcome them?
Our challenge is that we are currently a group of very busy, volunteers facing many issues within our own individual community-based organizations.
We are set to receive substantial support that will enable us to stand on our feet and establish an office/resource center. We will be employing program officers to visit communities, carry out awareness and complete activities that we have planned.
Photo from Patrick Pikacha FB page
How do you operate your project?
There are currently a lot of communities around Malaita that are seeking development but want an alternative to destructive practices such as logging. There are already some initiatives such as conservation and eco-tourism activities but there is a need for a central, locally managed body that can interact with local communities and work with external partners.
Our goal to make this work is to have a central body that can facilitate funding, programs and activities with interested communities. We need young and passionate Malaitans to donate their time
We are planning to officially launch by the end of 2018 with a cross island trek from Atoifi to Waihau along the Wairaha river which is the largest in Malaita as we aim to keep a 'green belt' for future generations.
What has been your success story so far?
The fact that we have come together from different communities and areas on the island of Malaita to work together is a success story. We are trying to emulate the true Ma’asina spirit of collaboration and brotherhood.