A snapshot of life, conservation and celebration in Choiseul.
Home for Hawksbill
"Home for Hawksbill" tells the remarkable story of how the tribes of the Arnavon Islands overcame cultural conflicts to protect the islands and save the turtles. Their success has become a model for conservation and is inspiring action all over the world.
"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 to Richard Hamilton of the Conservancy
Visitors to Choiseul — a remote province of the Solomon Islands inhabited by around 20,000 people — are rare.
But, nearly nine years ago, The Nature Conservancy received a warm welcome in the region, traditionally known as Lauru, when it responded to requests for guidance on protecting the community’s natural resources.
Since then, Choiseul has become a model of the Conservancy’s work in the Coral Triangle and Pacific, a place where locals are making their lands and waters more resilient to the effects of climate change. Recently, community leaders unanimously adopted a set of ambitious conservation goals — recommended by the Conservancy — marking an important milestone for Choiseul.
Climate change imperils the natural resources that residents of the Solomon Islands depend on for food and income. But Choiseul is proactively tackling climate change impacts by adopting conservation strategies that will safeguard those resources — and their futures.
“We’re honored to be partnered with Lauru’s communities," says Willie Atu, the Conservancy's Solomon Islands Program Manager. "We’re happy to be using our expertise in conservation planning to respond to their needs and their desire to adapt to the threats of climate change."
Coming to a Consensus on Conservation
During the 2009 Lauru Land Conference of Tribal Community (LLCTC) annual meeting, over a hundred local chiefs met to deliberate two recommendations made by Conservancy science staff. These were:
- The creation of a network of protected areas that stretches from the region’s lushly forested ridges to its coral reefs; and
- The establishment within the next two years of at least one marine and one terrestrial protected area in each of Choiseul’s 12 districts.
“It was remarkable to witness these recommendations being endorsed without opposition, a testament to just how far we’ve come,” says Dr. Richard Hamilton, a Conservancy scientist working in Melanesia.
Climate Change We Can Believe In—and Act On
It’s hard not to recognize the effects of climate change in Choiseul. Water levels are already creeping higher, and fiercer storms are striking the region more frequently.
As a result, the Conservancy is helping Choiseul’s leaders to view their projects through a “climate lens” — a holistic perspective that accounts for both the ongoing and anticipated consequences of climate change.
Over the past couple years, Choiseul community members and Conservancy scientists have collected data on the region’s flora, fauna and landmarks, cataloging species including hornbills, sharks and flying foxes.
Lauru boasts the largest remaining stands of lowland rainforest, as well as more plant and animal species than any other island in the Solomon archipelago. Many of them can only be found locally, making action all the more urgent.
Plans for the Present—and the Future
By filtering this information through advanced mapping software, the partnership has identified a number of targets for ecosystem-based adaptation, including:
- The communities and areas most endangered by climate change.
- Natural defenses against climate change — such as mangroves, barrier reefs, and wetlands — that can be preserved and restored.
- Food and freshwater resources such as community gardens and water catchments.
- New practices that limit the degradation and exploitation of important resources.
These findings will help Choiseul to further adapt to climate change, a process that has already achieved major goals.
The Choiseul Provincial government is working to sign the protected area network into law. And the Parama reef at the northwestern tip of Choiseul, set aside as a marine protected area in 2006, has already seen a remarkable increase in the density of fish and other macroinvertebrates.
To ensure that results like these last, the Conservancy is looking to establish long-term sustainable financing options for the region.
Unifying the Global and the Local
These beacons of hope are cause for more celebrations like the one enjoyed here by Geoff Lipsett-Moore, a conservation planner for Pacific island countries with the Conservancy.
Choiseul demonstrates that communities using nature as a tool can build sturdy defenses against the impacts of climate change, yielding local results and uniting far-flung partners.
“You and I are no longer partners; our partnership has developed into a relationship,” said Honorable Reverend Chief Leslie Boseto to Hamilton of the Conservancy before the LLCTC conference. “In a relationship you talk with us rather than talking to us. You are a part of Lauru.”