This is my first blogpost. More will follow.
I left Sasamuqa Village (S 7°02’18.49” E 156°45’54.33”) in the early hours of June 16, 2014 by OBM boat and arrived at Gizo (S 8°06’12.99” E 156°50’27.80”) that same day, a three to four hour journey by boat. From there, I took a passenger boat for a two day journey to Honiara (S 9°25’52.13” E 159°57’33.57”), where I am today waiting for the trip to the Philippines.
How it all started: Embarking on the P3DM / PGIS learning journey
In 2009 I came across the concept of P3DM on the Internet, while I was searching customizable mapping resources for local spatial data entry that derived from non-technical / non-machine readable formats. I was captivated by the distinct nature and approach of the P3DM process, taking into account that at that time I was already familiar with the Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) concept. I assisted in a contracted PRA activity that aimed to identify and further develop livelihood measures for a localized World Wildlife Fund (WWF) conservation project based on four indigenous land owning groups of Choiseul Island, Solomon Islands, where I was holding a position as secretary for one of the groups. The conservation efforts were funded by the European Union , and led by the Ministry of Forestry in Solomon Islands.
Simultaneously, the Padezaka tribe, pursued its land based conservation initiative under a separate NGO in Solomon Islands called ‘Live and Learn’. The Padezaka tribe was eventually very fortunate to become a selected recipient of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) – Small Grants Programme funds coordinated by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) office based in Honiara, the capital city of Solomon Islands. As a member of the Padezaka tribe, I have very strong land and blood ties with the local community, and have been heavily involved in most of their conservation activities. The network of local protected areas attempts to conserve 17 percent of the highest priority terrestrial ecosystem of the Choiseul Island in adherence to the convention on biodiversity to which Solomon Islands is a signatory.
My search for mapping resources on the web was motivated by the fact that three conservation land units were under WWF conservation initiatives, including the Padezaka tribal land. Here, the conservation land units were all situated in the same segment of a significant freshwater system, locally known as the Kolobangara River. Major logging activities authorised by government, occurred further upstream while government-endorsed WWF conservation initiatives were concentrated downstream. Indeed, upstream deforestation posed a significant threat to the livelihoods of local communities. It was a counteractive measure to monitor and moderate critical changes to the natural environment. Currently, all stakeholders involved need to come to an agreement to implement an alternative measure. One possible alternative is to produce a collaborative map with detailed land use that covers the entire watershed of the Kolobangara River.
Given this, my research eventually landed me on the front steps of the local provincial planning advisor’s house, an expatriate from New Zealand working for The Nature Conservancy (TNC) Solomon Islands Office. The planning advisor assisted the Choiseul government in provincial-wide planning, project implementation and monitoring. He was very helpful and promised to update me on any available opportunities that need expert assistance for a future P3DM exercise comprising the concerned land area. In anticipation, the Padezaka Tribe submitted a budget under the GEF-Small Grants Programme fund for a P3DM project in the Padezaka bio-diversity protected sites; to generate a well defined land use plan, consult, invite and include the contiguous land owning tribes for broad holistic land-based planning activities. This of course, will work if there is an environment conducive to collaborative planning that can systematically and coherently tackle the issue of the endangered watershed areas by creating a sectoral land and resource management plan in advance. We estimated that the availability of the P3DM opportunity would coincide with the disbursement and implementation of the external fund.
Our desire for P3DM does not materialise the Padezaka Conservation Project funds. These included GEF-Small Grants Programme funds that were mismanaged by the implementing NGO, which ceased to be operational whilst subjected to that same timeframe. WWF also closed its doors to the other four local land groups, perhaps due to the lapse of the funding contract. However, the Choiseul provincial advisor was true to his word and invited me to attend a P3DM introductory workshop in May 2012. It was jointly organized by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), TNC and UNDP held in the Capital of the Solomon Islands. During this organised workshop, I repeatedly called on our provincial leaders in attendance to convene an extensive P3DM of the whole Island of Choiseul but was adhered not to.
Fundamentally, this is the dominant culture in PGIS practices found in some areas of the Southern hemisphere. In the Northern hemisphere, I believe the public is more proactive in using PGIS to enhance, empower and improve their way of life. At the very structure of our society there is a lack of proactive dimensions needed to engender a collaborative planning process that measures collective growth. This weakness is inherent to those tribes whose land comprises the noted watershed area. Furthermore, the National River Act was very ineffective in dealing with large scale natural resource extractions, because it had no clear provisions for specific social and natural environment safeguards. However, I am also fully aware of the fact that some methodologies and techniques incorporated into the PRA approach have limitations for discovering effective solutions in the midst of the large scale emergence of this environmental threat.
Related posts by Wilfred Don Dorovoqa :
From Solomon Islands to the Philippines: My PGIS learning journey ...
- Blog post 5: Participatory data extraction and digitization
- Blog post 4: QGIS introduction and P3DM in action
- Blog post 3: Preparations and challenging encounters ()
- Blog post 2: My expectations
- Blog post 1: How it all started