Asserting traditional rights – community conservation in SI

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BY ELLISON VAHI

FOR many years the Solomon Islands have had indigenous systems for administering and allocating land and sea resources.

Land above water and land that is covered by fresh-water of seawater are one and undivided although with some form of seaward limit, often the outer edge of the outermost coral reef.

There is a close interdependence among an individual, his or her background group, and the land and sea with which that group traditionally is associated.

Hence, many of the world’s indigenous peoples are facing severe difficulties in the face of economic development. In most affected countries, these groups exist as marginalized minorities. In the Pacific islands, however, where the majority of island societies now are politically independent, government is by members of the indigenous societies themselves.

Beach

This might lead to a conclusion that indigenous land and sea rights are safe and secure, but this is not necessarily the case as some landscape of agricultural villages are made up of settlements along the coastlines surrounded by what resembles a mixture of human-modified forests and Reserves on the land.

The marine environment is comprised of shallow lagoons and barrier islands farther offshore compared to other countries, which are relatively less modifications by humans.

Also, agricultural fields are not kept tidied on a permanent basis. After forest is changed into a crop field, the field turns back into forest again in time. Therefore, each forest is unique and made up of many diverse species. As each forest has different flora and fauna, the residents use each for a different purpose.

In relation, during the recent years, with the influence of the market economy, commercial logging has been carried out widely, and industrial forestation is being performed where such logging has been implemented. Also, at the sea, there is an increase in scale of marine product gathering for cash, which is seriously affecting the marine ecosystem. Thus, the continuity of such a trend could destroy the resident’s livelihood, triggering a decrease in the number and variety of species.

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In accordance, the Pacific Islands governments are not very profound on projects aimed at conservation of nature, partly because the government revenues depend largely on the utilization of natural resources such as timber and fishing. What is more, even if a government tries to take action on conservation, it is difficult to achieve a successful outcome because most of the territories consist of customary lands in which protected areas cannot be set up without the president’s approval.

Also, the residents in the Solomon Islands, whose livelihoods have been heavily reliant on farming and fishing, have no choice but to continue making a living out of natural resources. Even for the sake of conserving natural resources in the Solomon Islands, it is really impossible to persuade people to leave unmodified forests untouched or to make all the coral reefs protected. Even if such ideas were accepted, it is unlikely that the agreements would become permanent.

As for the resident’s lives and traditional culture, along with the variety of local species, it is important to stop large-scale changes such as deforestation and industrial forestation, and also to provide support for the use of Reserves and modified forests.


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