The Babatana Rainforest Conservation Project aims to protect the rainforest and finance the ongoing maintenance of forest protection whilst delivering livelihood benefits to the Babatana people. In parallel, the project secures the land and resource rights of the communities and reduces their vulnerability to climate change. As a result of the project, the areas within the project are gaining registration as the first legally recognized terrestrial protected areas in Solomon Islands since the Protected Areas Act (PA Act) came into force in 2010. The project puts a stop to large-scale deforestation and the extraction of raw materials, and also secures the tribe’s land rights and provides critical alternative livelihoods. The conservation of this natural carbon store generates CO₂ certificates that will financially compensate for the lack of income from the timber industry. These funds will be used to finance conservation activities and promote community businesses initiatives such as Women’s Savings Clubs.
Rainforest is a key biodiversity area and home to endemic species
The rainforest in the Babatana Area in Solomon Island has remarkable and unique biodiversity due to its isolation and biogeography and is home to the Sirebe tribe. The project is part of the Kolombangara to Mount Maetambe River Corridor and is officially recognised as a Key Biodiversity Area. The pristine rainforest supports a diversity of endemic rainforest plants and animal species such as the Solomon’s Bare backed fruit bat Dobsonia inermis or Solomon Flying Fox (Pteropus rayneri) as well as vulnerable and rare trees. The forest provides vital ecosystem services for the indigenous people, including flood protection, providing pristine water quality for the people and for the rivers thereby also making the fringing coral reefs more resilient towards climate change. The forest is a fundamental part of their cultural identity and they rely on the forests as source of food, building materials and resources that support their economic development.
Alternative livelihood activities and Women’s Savings Club
Thanks to a benefit sharing system, the project makes funding available to families to take up new livelihood activities such as cultivation of cocoa, kava and noni and enables access to new and emerging markets. Community members also have the opportunity to establish small businesses such as stores or invest in tools and equipment to provide services in carpentry for local building projects.
The project has a particular focus on supporting women’s livelihood development through Women’s Savings Clubs. The Women’s Savings Clubs are an important and culturally appropriate approach to ensure that women and marginal groups can benefit from the project and participate in the community’s financial decision making. So far, several financial management training for the Women’s Savings Clubs have been conducted with the intention to finance activities such as children’s school fees, small community projects and livelihood opportunities.
Employment is provided to community rangers, who are paid to monitor and protect the rainforest. The rangers have been provided with training and resources to increase their skillset in land management and conduct forest inventories and biodiversity monitoring. A local conservation organisation will support the rangers to increase their capacity to monitor and protect the protected area by using mobile devices to collect data about the areas biodiversity, land management and carbon.