BY LYNTON AARON FILIA
PEOPLE in West Are Are of Malaita province are facing risks from their environmental damage by logging companies.
A study conducted from November 2016 – November 2017 assessed the local impacts of logging on food security, fisheries and well-being in Malaita.
It is based on qualitative interviews conducted with 172 people (84 men and 88 women) in 23 villages in Are’Are, Lau and Langalanga.
It is reported that logging affects gardens by directly damaging them through road construction and felling, as well as causing productivity problems through spread of pests and weeds, which is facilitated by logging machinery.
The logging on such locations in Malaita province also has further impacts on wildlife and the availability of construction materials from the forest.
Besides, the report highlighted logging activity frequently affects supply of drinking water, both through contamination of open water sources and through direct damage of existing water supply systems.
The combined impacts of logging on food provisioning and water quality put rural Malaitans’ nutrition and health status at risk, it said.
Many of the impacts on marine, freshwater and terrestrial resources remain long after logging has ceased, and the fractioning effects of logging on social cohesion compromise the collective action needed to counter them.
Logging gives rise to severe social problems, including heightened levels of conflict at all levels.
Logging related disputes over land ownership, decision-making processes and benefit sharing cause deep and lasting rifts between and within landholding groups, villages, families and households.
Crucially, logging reinforces gender inequity by systematically excluding women from decision-making and from sharing in the benefits, whether through employment or royalties.
Women are also disproportionately affected by the environmental impacts of logging, particularly by the effects on mangroves, gardens and drinking water.
From the report, the people’s major concern is the sexual exploitation of girls and women by logging personnel.
Currently, in unregulated form, logging in Malaita is environmentally and socially destructive.
It undermines local food security and social integrity and does not contribute to development at either the village or provincial level.