Making Pacific connections

Published on 23rd May 2011

Staff from one of VSA’s partner organisations in the Solomon Islands feel more connected with their Pacific neighbours after attending a four-day forestry conference in Auckland at the beginning of May.


From left to right: Pendrin Napthalae, Ferguson Vaghi, Vaeno Vigulu and Figert Roger.

“I learned that we are black, we are white, but when we come together we are one family. I previously thought we were isolated, but now I see us as Pacific,” says one of the men, Pendrin Napthalae.


Mr Napthalae is head of forestry operations at Kolombangara Forest Products Ltd (KFPL), a sustainable forestry plantation company on Kolombangara Island in the Western Province of the Solomon Islands. He attended the conference, Pacific Forestry: Growing a Forestry Future, with colleagues Figert Roger and Vaeno Vigulu, along with Ferguson Vaghi who works with the Kolombangara Island Biodiversity Conservation Association (KIBCA).


VSA volunteer Celia Burton, who is on assignment as a training adviser at KFPL, along with  Australian volunteer Andrew Cox, who is based at KIBCA, helped with the logistics of getting the men to the conference. 


While they were in Auckland  they presented a paper about their experiences at KFPL and the community involvement/conservation model promoted by their organisations.


“Community involvement has been very important to the success of both conservation and forestry on the island,” explains Mr Vaghi.  “Our two organisations support each other. We see it as necessary for the long term sustainability of the island to have a common understanding and link with each other.”


The men say they appreciated the opportunity the conference gave them to learn about different ideas and forestry practices. Mr Roger says he was particularly interested to learn about carbon credits.


“It has opened my eye to some possibilities we can explore.”


They were also pleased to be able to pass on some of their own knowledge – for example, the way they use manual labour rather than chemicals to keep vegetation down, in order to protect the waterways that people rely upon on the island.


“It has been interesting to learn at this conference that we share common understandings and problems with other forest-based communities around the Pacific,” says Mr Vaghi.  “We have generally poured out the truth about our problems, and we have learnt that people are sympathetic.”


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