SIRA Calls for Decentralizing of Powers for Sustainable Forestry Practices

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BY JOHN HOUANIHAU

THE Solomon Islands Rangers Association (SIRA) is urging the new government forming after the 2024 national elections to prioritize the decentralization of powers for sustainable forestry practices in the country.

The association, a non-government organization that represents local rangers responsible for managing and protecting the country’s forests, is calling for greater autonomy for local communities to manage their own natural resources.

In an interview with ENVIRONMENT MEDIA, Solomon Islands Rangers Association (SIRA) Technical Consultant Albert Chris Kwatelae said he made the appeal in light of the 2024 joint election if a new government is formed after the polls on April 17.

The decentralization of power is vital for promoting sustainable forestry practices in the Solomon Islands.

“First of all, empower, recruit, expand, and decentralize the powers of the current forestry authority we have. The Ministry of Forestry and Research. The office and the officers need the latest equipment and technologies (remote sensing and geographic information system) for monitoring deforestation and promoting sustainable reforestation programs,’’ Kwatelae said.

He said that with deforestation rates on the rise and biodiversity loss becoming a growing concern, it is crucial for the government to empower local communities and stakeholders in managing their forests.

He said that the officers need capacity building to improve their work more effectively and increase their pay and salaries by the authority responsible.

Solomon Islands Rangers Association (SIRA) Technical Consultant, Albert Chris Kwatelae.

“In that way, they will work honestly and cordially with the local people and resource owners,’’ he said.

He also called on political parties in this campaign fever to change old laws and policies, as some of these laws are too old, such as the mining and forestry laws of the Solomon Islands, and create more laws to suit the present generation.

“Empower the provincial forestry officers with better equipment and facilities. This is to monitor deforestation in the Solomon Islands. Repeal the old Forestry Act and put in place more measures that promote transparency and high fines for breachers and lawbreakers.

“Do more research and add value to the forest, timber, and round logs we have,’’ he said.

He pointed out the need to connect and work with other national governments and partners from other countries on how they address deforestation issues.

“Process our own logs for timber and other materials by adding value to them in order to maximize the benefits from our forests. Lessen the operation licenses and strictly limit the number of logging camps and operations in the provinces.

He said that the Ministry responsible must enforce the 400m above not to be logged in more effective manners.

“Currently, some of these logging operations cut logs that are above 400m above sea level. This is not good. Collaborate with existing NGOs such as SIRA to empower locals to better understand forests and the values they hold.

He said that it is also paramount to promote more value-added productions, target overseas markets, and set up markets with more investors both in the country and overseas.

“Replanting is an important way to regain our wealth and health. Cut one tree, replant, or plant four trees in replacement,’’ he said.

Image courtesy of Eric Katovai

“Allow locals to go into agroforestry programs. A good example is the Japanese model implemented in Falake, Kwara’ae in Malaita, and Komuniboli in Guadalcanal,’’ the SIRA Technical Consultant said.

The Solomon Islands Rangers Association plays a role in empowering men and women rangers who are working in community-based conservation areas and protected areas in the Solomon Islands through capacity building and training. Biological surveys and protected area management Develop learning and course materials for rangers. Collaborates with NGOs and government ministries such as the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management, and Meteorology (MECDM), the Ministry of Forestry and Research, and provincial governments and CBOs. Involve yourself in research and scientific studies.

The SIRA vision is to uphold the premier standards and expertise in the line of work, clearly communicate its actions, provide an avenue for open communications and timely feedback, always support and recognize the significance of its members, and act in the common interest.

The association also promote professionalism in protecting and managing natural resources in local communities around the country, upgrade working conditions, support and participate in active training programs, improve communication, and share common interests among members of the Solomon Islands Rangers Association.


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