Three important conservation areas in Malaita and one in Bougainville have been mapped by local community members. These community-led reserves are proving fundamental in protecting the unique biodiversity of the Solomon Islands.
The Kwaio people reside in the remote and tropical highlands of Malaita, Solomon Islands. Since 2016 the Australian Museum has been in partnership with the Kwaio conservation initiative (known as the Baru Conservation Alliance), and AM scientists have been fortunate to embark on a number of fruitful expeditions to the region in collaboration with the Kwaio. Throughout this partnership three conservation areas have been established by local tribes on their Kastom land.
To the north west of Malaita lies the island of Bougainville. The Kainake local community on Bougainville manage a 60-hectare conservation area, and a 50 km2 area has been nominated for protection under the Bougainville Heritage Act. These reserves have proved successful in protecting primary forest from the threat of logging, and importantly, in the safeguarding of floral and faunal biodiversity.
The locally established and driven Baru Conservation Alliance mapped the land boundaries of the three areas in Malaita; Kwainaa’isi, Kafarumu and Aifasu, comprising 5.7 km2 in total area. During the mapping of these areas training was provided as part of the Ranger Program. Ranger training includes the use of GPS, camera traps for surveying biodiversity, photography and record keeping. Aside from ranger training and biodiversity conservation, the Baru Conservation Alliance observed extensive community and cultural benefits such as improved livelihood and cultural exchange.
Local Kwaio tribal leaders on Malaita are recognising the importance of conservation to their communities and showing interest in, and commitment to, the alliance. As a result, 12 more local groups in Malaita have expressed intention in joining and setting aside some of their lands for conservation. Of these 12 groups, 9 are land based and 3 are sea based. With these community driven conservation initiatives continuously expanding and interconnecting, the future of these unique ecosystems is hopeful.
Emma Flannery, Communications Administrator- Solomon Islands Conservation Alliance