It’s been one year since the Sirebe Tribe made history by becoming the first landowner group in the Solomon Islands to commence trading under a forest carbon project.
For the last 12 months, the Sirebe Tribe have been successfully selling forest carbon credits on the voluntary carbon market and working hard on the ground to ensure their protected forest meets all the requirements under the international carbon standards.
For the Sirebe Tribe, being able to keep their rainforest and all the benefits it provides — clean water, food, medicine, materials and cultural significance — outweighs other options. Linford Pitatamae from the Sirebe Tribal Association says: “There is only one Sirebe Tribal Land, and if we exploit it now, what will we leave behind for our children?”
“With carbon trading, we still have our forests, and we can still use the forest for domestic uses,” he says.
The project was developed by Solomon Islands NGO Natural Resources Development Foundation (NRDF) and the Nakau Programme, under the banner of the Babatana Rainforest Conservation Project.
Wilko Bosma is the founder of NRDF and a Project Manager with Nakau.
He says other tribes and Pacific communities could learn from the project, and that forest conservation provides huge benefits socially, economically and environmentally.
“It is very unique that a tribe can find sustainable economic development through protecting their forest ecosystems. This is completely the opposite of what logging and mining does,” Wilko says.
“Tribes are rewarded for their commitment and vision to object to large-scale logging and conserve their forest for future generations. It is a huge challenge and achievement for tribes to stand-up against powerful extractive logging companies.”
“Sirebe is a model that is now being replicated within the Babatana Rainforest Project, but it is also being picked up in other parts of the country,” he says.
Income generated through carbon-financed forest conservation comes back to communities to be re-invested — growing other social ventures and providing financial stability.
Linford Pitatamae says: “When the money entered the community, people of Sirebe Tribe realised this project is for real and that it gains huge benefits for the tribe.”
“Now people come and work together to make the project and the carbon business effective and successful.”
The income from credit sales is used for managing and monitoring the Sirebe forests, and for Ranger salaries and casual employment for other young people in the community.
The income also builds financial stability and goes towards school costs, WASH facilities and future community-run enterprises.
“The improvements of housing, sanitation and water has greatly benefited women in our community too,” explains Linford.
“It has created a safer environment for them as water and sanitation is now located close to their homes when before they needed to walk long distances, even at night.”
The project produces carbon credits by reducing the emissions of carbon dioxide that would be released if the usual practice of logging had taken place. By measuring trees, Rangers from the Sirebe Tribe have proven their forest is acting as a storehouse for carbon, which is keeping it out of the atmosphere where it would contribute to climate change. Positive environmental impacts for the Babatana Rainforest Conservation Project so far include:
- 806 hectares of Sirebe rainforest protected
- 87,117 tonnes CO2 verified emissions reductions since the project commenced (2015)
- 17,423 tonnes CO2 verified emissions reduced each year The impact of the protected areas around Sirebe and other Babatana Tribes is significant for healthy forests and ecosystems, and evidence of how protected areas work to safeguard forests can be seen during the annual monitoring.
Nakau’s Technical Advisor Michael Dyer says remote sensing and open-source satellite data is used to measure forest change and threats to the forest over time.
“When we look at the satellite map of Choiseul, we can see the logging roads, lost trees and bare soil created from the growing expansion of commercial logging throughout the forested areas,” he says.
“The only forest that remains intact is where communities have established a protected area, like Sirebe and some other Babatana Tribes.”
Cornelius Qaqara lives on Choiseul and is a Project Coordinator with NRDF.
He says there is an important message for others across the Solomon Islands from the Sirebe experience.
“Any tribe that still have untouched forest must protect our natural rainforest for sustainable benefits that satisfy all resources owners,” he says.
“You can stop doing logging activities that cause massive environment destruction with no sustainable benefits and think about future benefits.”
Wilko Bosma adds that “for NRDF as the project coordinator, we experience the success of Sirebe as a way of tribes becoming more independent, looking after their forest and developing their local economies in their own way.”
“Although we still support Sirebe in some technical areas, they now make their own decisions in how they want to develop the tribe,” he says.
The future of forest carbon in the Solomon Islands is strong, and projects like Sirebe are a good demonstration project that can support a future national program. While local and international media have sometimes exaggerated the money received from forest carbon projects in the Solomon Islands, it’s worth noting the income from forest carbon projects is modest but still significant for local communities, especially because they also get to maintain their forest. Carbon projects generally take 3-5 years to establish and are a long-term commitment, as well as being just one part of a diversified rural economy.
“Income from forest carbon might be the same as from logging, but it is spread over a longer time, contributing towards a more sustainable development for tribal communities,” says Wilko Bosma.
“With forest carbon, income from credits benefits all tribal members while logging only provides for a small group of people.”