Pacific people need alternatives to selling natural resources
A New Zealand NGO working with remote Pacific Island communities says creating sustainble livelihoods could help stop exploitation.
A New Zealand NGO working with remote Pacific Island communities is hoping that creating sustainable livelihoods could help stop exploitation.
Oceans Watch uses its network to respond to requests for assistance from remote communities in Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands.
The organisation has found villagers in Temotu in the eastern parts of the Solomons are constantly being offered cash by companies wanting to mine and log their land.
Koroi Hawkins with this report.
Temotu the eastern province of the Solomon Islands is home to some of the most remote and isolated communities in the country. For the past five years Oceans Watch has been one of only a handful of NGO's operating in the province. It is also one of the only NGO's that actually sails to and from New Zealand to deliver its services. The president Chris Bone says the organisation works by word of mouth and only goes to communities it is invited to.
CHRIS BONE: We focus on climate change we have a marine conservation program but we also respond to a communities needs where ever we can. We have rehabilitative clinics, we have done water systems and maritime safety.
Particularly successful in Temotu is a sustainable livelihoods project working with women in the community to produce organic coconut oil for the New Zealand market. Harry Noel, a community leader from Vanikoro says apart from a much needed source of revenue the initiative has brought many positive changes to village life in Buma.
HARRY NOEL: They have been coming together they are eager to learn things because after all they can also make their own oil and then even sell locally. So it motivates them to do those things.
But Chris Bone fears all of the progress made so far could be under threat amid reports of an unnamed bauxite miner expressing interest in mining the islands.
CHRIS BONE: They are getting agents come up there who are giving them a some of money to sign documents. I am feeling extremely distressed by this I have seen so many problems as I have sailed in the Pacific where the environment has been completely wrecked.
The director of Oceans Watch in Solomon Islands, Lawrence Nodua, is from Temotu and he says the influx of logging and mining interests has come about because people are tired of waiting for the national government to improve basic services and address community needs.
LAWRENCE NODUA: Our leaders are not targeting the specific needs the community wants. As a result they themselves turn around and ask for logging and mining which over the years will devastate their land.
Mr Nodua hopes that providing more sustainable livelihood projects like the organic coconut oil initiative will help address some of the community's needs.
LAWRENCE NODUA: Conduct awareness talk with the community leaders and say you know see, we have some niche markets available and with these resources that you have we can come up with something that you can earn money out of rather than deplete your resources.
In June, Oceans Watch is planning to carry out a series of education and awareness workshops on the impact of mining and attempts are also being made to secure legal counsel for communities that are approached by companies interested in buying their mineral resources.
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