BY JOHN HOUANIHAU
VIRU Harbour community, the Western province is the first community selected in the Solomon Islands to participate in the Forest Carbon Activity of the U.S Millennium Challenge Corporation – Solomon Islands Threshold Program, according to the Vice President of the Department of Policy and Evaluation at the Millennium Challenge Corporation, Ms. Alicia Philips Mandaville.
Ms Mandaville told local journalists in a media conference held at the Heritage Park Hotel on May 19, that this is the first site officially selected and they are anticipating announcing further sites soon.
“This project aims to emphasize communities to protect their forest and the many benefits that they provide well into the future for people and will bring, environmental, social and economic benefits to Viru harbor, rather allowing extractive logging to cut down the forest,” Ms. Mandaville said.
She said the forest carbon activity project will be implemented by Nakau, Live and Learn, and the Natural Resources Development Foundation and is designed to provide the local community with an opportunity to sustainably manage their forest resources and to see equitable funding coming into the community.
“This activity Millennium Challenge Corporation -Solomon Islands Threshold Program (MCC-SITHP) will provide a vital boost to expand its type of model within the Solomon Islands, where local communities and partners work together with Government,’’ the Vice President of the Department of Policy and Evaluation at the Millennium Challenge Corporation said.
Viru Harbour community will participate in the Forest Carbon Activity of the MCC-SITHP’s Forest Value Enhancement Project (FoVEP). This Activity aims to protect the community’s forest from logging and provide the community with a sustainable source of future revenue through carbon capture and trading. The identification and assessment of additional sites for further forest carbon projects are ongoing and is guided by a Task Force and Working Groups comprised of Solomon Islands Government officials.
Ms. Alicia Phillips Mandaville has already traveled to Western Province on a 2-day visit from May 19 to 20 to advance the MCC-Solomon Islands Threshold Program (MCC-SITHP).
The MCC-Solomon Islands Threshold Program aims to generate more reliable, sustainable benefits from the country’s natural resources by reducing the negative environmental impacts of logging, increasing revenues from forestry production, benefiting local communities, and developing a regulatory framework that promotes a greater balance between utilizing forests for both logging and non-logging purposes.
Meanwhile, the Minister of National Planning and Development Coordination, Honourable Rexon Ramofafia said the Government is also working closely with MCC to improve the reporting system to access bigger funding.
“The primary objective of the government is to make sure this threshold program is impacting the lives of our people, especially in areas that are important in terms of forest management and also to help in terms of land that we can access for tourism and investment.
“The financing agreement that we signed is USD20 million for these two sectors, forestry, and tourism. So I think it is important, especially to our people in the community or in the provinces that once you are selected to be part of these beneficiaries of the program, we just want to make sure it is implemented successfully
“The MCC fund is provided on behalf of the American people and they are grants, not loans. These grants are investments and economic growth that is designed to enhance opportunities for the people of Solomon Islands.,’’ Ramofafia said.
The threshold program is not and never has been, a deliverable of the United States Indo-Pacific Strategy. Whilst the MCC partnership investments are 100% grant dollars – not loans. Grant funding does not create debt or re-payment schemes that stunt opportunities for people and communities to prosper.