BY SAMIE WAIKORI
SOCIAL problems as a result of alcohol abuse is ripe in communities engaged in logging in Malaita province.
According to a report title “From happy hour to hungry hour: Logging, fisheries and food security in Malaita, Solomon Islands” recently released by WorldFish Auki, social problems related to increased alcohol consumption come up spontaneously.
The report stated that alcohol is generally not available in the company shops and its consumption is prohibited on log ponds, but enforcement of such prohibitions is poor.
Logging companies facilitate the local sale of alcohol by allowing landowners to transport liquor on logging barges to start local bottle shops, which often involves a shortcut on the rules.
“Procedure was, in order to get a licence to sell alcohol you should first get permission from the chiefs and the church leaders.”
But what the people are now doing is that they only request the permit in Auki and they easily get it or in some cases permit is not considered by those who sell alcohol.
The increased alcohol consumption increases family problems. Men are said to spend their logging wages on drinking.
So many families break up and in the places where logging takes place, some ‘daddies’ are always getting drunk.
The report stated that men employed under logging companies don’t take care of their families well. They just drink beer month after month.
A teacher from West Are’Are expressed concerns about the vulnerability of young people to alcohol abuse, saying that whenever the logging barge has arrived she witnesses drunkenness among schoolchildren.
In short, “Alcohol is disturbing the whole community now. Before logging, drinking would only happen when it was time to celebrate, but now it happens Monday to Sunday.
The young and the old, everyone drinks and it happens everywhere too. Before, drinking would happen at the edge of the village.
Now it happens in the middle of it, within the view and hearing of children, who see and hear all the swearing and the fighting.
Women get frustrated too when their husbands spend all the money they earn on beer.
So to get it balanced, they also start drinking. And then a lot of fighting happens inside the house, and the children don’t know where to run to anymore.
This chapter has shown that at the outset of logging, expectations of the anticipated benefits are sky-high.
Rural Malaitans view logging companies as potential providers of cash, jobs, key services and infrastructure.
However, few of these expectations are met as the cash rewards are mostly disappointing and badly managed, jobs are short term and low paid, and benefit sharing agreements are poorly formalized and rarely implemented.
Meanwhile, logging is invariably associated with heightened levels of conflict, increased sexual exploitation of girls and women and widespread alcohol abuse, which leave communities fractioned and bitter.