Pacific Climate Change Project
|TNC/SPAR research base on Choiseul.|
In 2010 The Nature Conservancy (TNC), with funding from AusAid, initiated a multi-national project on Pacific climate change funded by AusAid. The aim of the project is to develop methods for building the resilience of Melanesian communities to sea-level rise and other impacts of climate change. The most obvious impact will be on production systems, but this project takes a unique approach to Pacific conservation by including a strong archaeology and heritage component. SPAR has been appointed as the heritage service providers for the project building on the 15 years experience that Richard Walter has had carrying out research in the Solomon Islands.
The SPAR work is focused on Choiseul, at the northern tip of the Solomon Islands close to the border with Papua New Guinea. Choiseul is a large island but it is extremely remote and difficult to access. The island is about 150 km long, there are no roads and the only power and telecommunication is found in the small township of Taro at the northern end of the island. All transport in Choiseul is via boat. There are at least seven languages spoken on Choiseul so the project will be carried out in the only common language – Solomon Island pidgin.
|Richard in boat visiting coastal shrines.|
The starting point for the heritage work is the observation that Melanesian societies occupy landscapes populated by symbols and markers of history, identity and power. These include the monuments, shrines and sacred places that represent the ancestors that are scattered through the forests and along shores. These sites are not static remnants of the past, they are a vital part of the contemporary world and are referenced daily in matters relating to land tenure, rights to harvest resources and political succession. They are used to channel power from the dead to the living and are a vital part of individual and social identity. Many of these sites are located in coastal zones and are under direct threat if sea-levels rise. The sites located in the forests and hills are less threatened by sea-level rise, but are indirectly threatened by other aspects of climate change. There is also a growing concern about the effect of forestry and, potentially, mining operations. Local communities are conscious of the need to look after their heritage places but are not well resourced to do so. This project aims to provide the tools necessary for local communities to manage their heritage sites in the face of emerging threats to their integrity.
|Family house in Chivoko Village.|
The objectives of the project developed out of a series of workshops held on the islands of Savo and Choiseul in the Solomon Islands during June 2010 in which the needs of local communities in respect of cultural resource management issues were discussed. The participant communities recognised that any management programmes depend, in the first instance, on their having a comprehensive understanding of the resource base. To this end the aims of the SPAR team over the first 12 months of the project are to work with the participant communities to develop a heritage management capacity. This will involve several tasks as follows:
1) The development of a site recording toolkit that can be used by local communities to gather spatial, cultural and historical information about their sites. This toolkit will be based on methods developed by Richard in collaboration with Peter Sheppard (University of Auckland) during their research work in Roviana Lagoon, Solomon Islands in the 1990s.
|Richard and local counterpart Kiplin Lato working on crocodile shrine.|
2) Richard will run a series of training workshops to show how the site recording toolkit operates. He will be assisted in this by Hiki Riqio, a field assistant who worked in Roviana Lagoon with Richard in the 1990s.
3) Our Choiseul team leader will receive additional training in field methods at the University of Otago
We have identified the village of Chivoko as the place where we will develop the methodology over the next 12 months. Richard visited the village in June 2010 and surveyed several of the coastal and inland shrine sites with the village elders. Work will commence in additional parts of the island over the next year.
An interview with Richard about the work he has been doing can be found here http://community.eldis.org/.5a27eb44.