“In Barora Faa, I feel the cool breeze under the big trees,” she says. “I love the echoes from different sounds, from frogs, from wind.”
For Margaret, a mother of five living in Kia Village in Solomon Islands, the nearby forest of Barora Faa plays host to a vivid set of memories. But it’s not just a pretty place: Barora Faa is essential to Kia’s continued existence.
“Our lives are from Barora Faa,” Margaret says. “We live on Barora Faa; we depend on Barora Faa.”
Many Kia residents tend gardens in Barora Faa, where they grow the crops—swamp taros, cassavas, potatoes, coconuts and betel nuts—that end up on their dinner plates. It’s a sustainable lifestyle—but one that might not last much longer.
At a time when many Solomon Islands communities have been pressured into selling their local land rights to timber companies, Barora Faa remains one of the country’s last portions of unlogged forest. And Margaret, who has become an environmental advocate through her work with The Nature Conservancy, is a crucial reason why.
“Conservation is very good,” Margaret says. “I want my future generations still experiencing how I use the environment and resources, where there's plenty of fish, plenty of birds, beautiful islands, fresh water.”
Margaret's conservation work makes her a Sea Turtle Hero. Meet other Sea Turtle Heroes and join the team.
A Need for Leadership
Solomon Islands communities have traditionally been completely dependent on the natural resources around them. They go fishing in offshore reefs and collect timber in nearby forests.
But those same resources are valuable to people outside Kia. Residents of Kia have received many offers for the land rights to Barora Faa, which lies a short canoe paddle away from the village.
Giving up those rights would not only destroy habitat for a wide range of local wildlife—it would also jeopardize Kia’s way of life.
Becoming a Leader
“The result of logging is too risky because all the resources we depend on could be spoiled by it,” Margaret says. She’s keenly aware that deforestation in Barora Faa would create runoff and mean disaster for the reefs below.
That knowledge comes in part from her participation in workshops conducted by the Conservancy. As a group leader in the Mothers’ Union, a women’s religious group, Margaret plays an important role in Kia. She and other Mothers’ Union representatives spent several days with Conservancy scientists and planners, who demonstrated the benefits a Ridges-to-Reefs conservation approach—one that incorporates both terrestrial and nearshore protective measures into a comprehensive management plan—could bring to Kia.
“When I went to work with TNC, I connected the resources from the sea to the forests learning about Ridges to Reefs,” Margaret says. She has since spread that knowledge throughout her village.
For the Future
At a recent land rights hearing, Margaret and a growing cadre of environmentally conscious Kia villagers spoke out against plans to sell the timber rights to Barora Faa. The village agreed to retain their claim on the forest—but the decision isn’t necessarily permanent.
That’s why Margaret vows to keep fighting. “I have to fight for the right for the next generations, for sustaining use of the resources that will help them have a good future,” she says. Her oldest child is in his mid-20s; her youngest, a daughter, is 10.
Barora Faa has become a symbol of the Solomon Islands; and when Margaret— one of its protectors—talks about its forests, you can tell that it inspires her conservation mission.
“Nature is the foundation for my leadership,” she says. “Nature teaches you to be a good leader. It teaches you to be humble; it teaches you to be patient.”