(Above video: Geoff Lipsett-Moore, director of conservation for the Conservancy’s Melanesia program, celebrates along with other Conservancy staff and chiefs from Choiseul province in the Solomon Islands celebrate the community’s support for two Conservancy recommendations at the 2009 annual meeting of the Lauru Land Conference of Tribal Communities (LLCTC). Credit: Richard Hamilton/TNC)
“You and I are no longer partners; our partnership has developed into a relationship. In a relationship you talk with us rather than talking to us, you are a part of Lauru.”
– Honorable Reverend Chief Leslie Boseto, President of the Lauru Land Council of Tribal Communities, speaking to Richard Hamilton from TNC’s Melanesia Program
While many of today’s world leaders are struggling to find consensus on how to protect our environment, for leaders in the Solomon Islands, consensus is here.
Several weeks ago, the village of Soranamola in the remote Solomon Islands province of Choiseul played host to the annual meeting of the Lauru Land Conference of Tribal Communities (LLCTC). At the meeting, more than 100 chiefs who represent the 21,000 residents of Choiseul provided their unanimous support for two recommendations made by the Conservancy:
- Launch a Lauru ridges-to-reefs protected Areas Network;
- Establish at least one marine protected area and one terrestrial protected area within the next two years for each of the 12 wards in Lauru.
This remarkable declaration reflects nine years of dedicated and determined work that the Conservancy’s Solomon Islands team has spent building its relationship with the LLCTC. The words of Honorable Leslie Boseto are a powerful and moving testament to the trust that the Conservancy has earned in this time, and to the importance of working with our partners as equals.
Conserving Choiseul is no small victory. Not only is Choiseul part of the Coral Triangle, it is also the most biodiverse island in the Solomon archipelago, and contains the largest stands of lowland rainforest in the entire Pacific. The rapid expansion of logging activties in the province poses a grave threat to the forests of Choiseul, while over-harvesting of marine resources threatens the livelihoods and food security of Choiseul communities.
Already, the decision to establish a protected areas network for Choiseul has secured support from both the provincial and national level of government in the Solomon Islands, serving as a model for expanded conservation efforts within the country as part of the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Planning Process now underway. With this, the Lauru Protected Areas Network has the potential to be a vital pillar in Pacific, and even global, conservation.
The Lauru Protected Areas Network not only shows what cooperation between global NGOs and local partners can accomplish, but it also provides one solution to a common challenge that exists in much of the Conservancy’s international work—how to reconcile bottom-up, community-driven conservation opportunities with our organization’s systematic and science-driven approach.
Implementing the protected areas network will be a dynamic, community-driven process, one that depends on identifying the most important and complementary pieces of Choiseul’s lands and seas. We want the whole to represent much more than the just the sum of the parts; a protected areas network that conserves the full spectrum of Choiseul’s amazing biodiversity, and the vital resources which sustain the vibrant communities of Choiseul.
The leaders of Choiseul have taken a strong and decisive move to protect their natural and cultural heritage for future generations and the Conservancy is proud to have been a part of it. Let’s hope today’s world leaders will begin to demonstrate the same resolve and commitment to conservation as those in Choiseul have done.
(Image: Members of the Lauru Land Council of Tribal Communities. Credit: Richard Hamilton/TNC.)