Acting to protect Kolombangara

The many participants at the Protected Areas Workshop at Nusatuva
 Participants at the workshop sharing their views with the audience

In February over 90 representatives from villages across Kolombangara came together to discuss their vision for a legally protected area on Kolombangara Island.

The meeting and workshop held at Nusatuva was conducted by KIBCA. It was the first in a series of community meetings held to hear from the community on making an application to protect the 20,000 hectare conservation area under the Government s Protected Areas Act.

The purpose of the meeting was to hear from the community about the conservation area and their ideas for the future. The community was well represented with village chiefs and leaders present including many women and youth.

The participants at the meeting were asked to break into groups and identify the things about the conservation area they considered important. The groups were also asked to identify the threats to those important things.

The different groups shared many thoughts in common when identifying why the Kolombangara conservation area is important. This included the areas plants and animals, the supply of clean water, the need to have an undisturbed place for the future, resource security and cultural sites, including the significance of the islands crater as the source of life for the people of Kolombangara.

Those present also had many common ideas when identifying threats to the conservation area. These included logging and mining, population growth, over harvesting, community disunity, lack of leadership, self-interest, climate change and natural disasters.

Mr. Adam Beeson a solicitor with the Landowners Advocacy Legal Support Unit of the Public Solicitors Office attended the meeting and presented a talk to the community on the Protected Areas Act and its purpose. He also provided opportunity for those present to ask questions about the Act and other legal issues relating to the conservation area.

Letters of support from the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) and the Solomon Islands Community Conservation Partnership (SICCP) were read out. The letters expressed AMNH and SICCP s ongoing support for the communities efforts to protect the conservation area as well highlighting the local, national, and international significance of Kolombangara s natural and cultural features.

Kolombangara Forest Product Limited (KFPL) was represented at the meeting by Mr. Mayson Nesa. Mr. Nesa addressed the meeting and confirmed KFPL s support for the formal protection of the conservation area under the Protected Areas Act, including the land covered by the KFPL lease that covers nearly three quarters of the proposed area.

KIBCA coordinator Mr. Ferguson Vaghi was very pleased with the how the meeting went. “It is encouraging to see the community pull together and work towards achieving a lasting benefit” “The large attendance at the meeting and participation in the workshops was very good. I think from the meeting we can see that local people are very supportive of protecting their land. They can see the benefits of protecting their natural and cultural resources under the Protected Areas Act”.

Mr. Vaghi stated that this was only the start and there were more meetings to follow. “From here we will be continuing with our consultation with the community to work towards a common goal that has benefits for everyone.”

Information on future meetings will be provided to the Kolombangara communities and others interested in the process.