Course:FRST370/Alterations in Policies in Commercial Logging in Solomon Island, Pacific Ocean

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This case study researched the logging system in the Solomon Islands and includes the changing history of land use in the country, the forest management system of the country, and an analysis of both affected and interested stakeholders in this system. Solomon Islands are one of the biggest timber exporters in Asia, even though the majority of the lands are still traditionally owned by indigenous people and customary groups. However only the government has the right to provide a logging license to a company. However, after some corruption and disorderly conduct that had taken place and no export taxes paid by those foreign companies in the history, the number of licenses given, and trees cut has exceeded the sustainable level [1]. Therefore governments, Indigenous people, and foreign companies comprise the three most important parts of the forest tenure. The changing history means the changes in both policies; they are still looking for a way to balance environmental health and commercial logging. In recent decades the changes include some remedial actions taken by the government like the built of small-scale plantation projects for a commercially logging purpose rather than take the natural forest down, the raise of export taxes and the logging license for indigenous people.

Solomon Islands, Oceania

Location

Map of Solomon Islands

The Solomon Islands is a country located in the South Pacific Ocean. The nation consists of an archipelago (a group of islands) that are divided into nine provinces[2]. The national capital, Honiara, on the island of Guadalcanal, is separately governed as the islands' Capital Territory[2]. The 9 provinces include: Central, Choiseul, Guadalcanal, Isabel, Makira-Ulawa, Malaita, Rennell and Bellona, Temotu, and Western[2].

History

The Solomon Islands in pre-contact era was mainly lead by tribes, and Indigenous leadership occupied the dominant position with one big man’s success based on his ability to organize labor and mobilize resources, called "big-man" model. In 1893, Britain formally annexed the Solomon Islands and established the British Government, protected from New Zealand, Germany's interests of the island. Later in post-colonial period, decolonization became important and state economic developed in diversity way[3]. After civil war, the country were trying to recover from a period of civil war that contributed to a harvesting rate of its natural forest that exceeded far over the sustainable level of cut[1]. By over-cutting, the country faces a 15 year period where it will be unable to produce commercial quantities of timber from its natural forests[1]. This is detrimental for the Solomon Islands as the forestry industry is a major component of the economy. Forest plantations were a decision that were implemented with the hopes to have the potential to bridge the gaps in resources[1]. However, it is difficult to establish large-scale commercial plantations because of the land tenure system[1]

Timeline of Events of the Government of Honiara, island of Guadalcanal

  • 2000:
    • There was an armed takeover of the government and civil war started due to ethnic tension[1]. The impact of the fight which was located on Honiara, extended to all the other 8 provinces. Armed militia displaced law and order and the already weak economy collapsed[1].
  • late 2000: Townsville Peace Agreement
    • This agreement was negotiated to stop the fighting and allow for a caretaker government to be put in place, but the law and order situation continued to deteriorate and corruption took hold[1]. The country slowly started heading towards social and economic collapse. The Prime Minister appealed to neighboring countries for support[1].
  • July 2003:
    • Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI) started their intervention with the arrival of more than 2000 troops, police and civilian personnel from 11 neighboring countries[1]. Law and order was quickly re-established with financial controls set in place[1]. Military presence was reduced and replaced with civilians who assist with the re-establishment of the institutions of government across most Ministries[1].

Tenure and Administrative arrangements

Most of the lands in Solomon Islands are traditionally customary lands. this part will include a time line about how the power shift from tribes to the government today, also a detailed explanation of how the policy and forest tenure have changed during this power shifting. The examples of policy using in specific period or areas are given to see policy changes in the country more directly.

Forested land ownership on Solomon Island:

Until 2005, the traditionally owned customary lands still take 90% of forested lands in Solomon Island and the government only has 8% of the alienated land which are the lands acquired from customary. 2% of these alienated lands go to the forestry industry and plantation projects[4]. Some of the forestry industry expanded from alienated lands to customary lands by government providing the logging licenses to foreign companies with an agreement with indigenous people. Local peoples are the landowners in this agreement but the agreement still ends up in an unequal distribution of profits. The reward of commercial logging usually are divided in 3 parts, 15% for customary for selling their lands, 35% were taken by the government include payment of export tax and logging companies have 35% of the reward by selling their products[4]. Logging is the largest cash income industry in Solomon Island, but the management provisions are not complete here and other protections of the environment were ignored. In other words, there are almost no lands that are set aside for network of parks and protected areas for biodiversity[4]

% of Land owned VS. % of reward in logging project
Land ownership % of land owned %of reward in a logging project example resource of the reward
traditional or customary ownership 90 15 selling their land
Government alienated land 8( 2% of forest industry and mostly reforestation.) 35 payment of export tax
foreign logging companies do not own lands 35 profits of selling the products

Timeline of tenure and policy changing

Forests provide a range of products that support livelihoods in many rural communities. Solomon Islands.
  • 19s century:
    • Before the coming of mission and government, pre-colonial chiefs were only partially replaced by church. People’s lives are self-sufficiency revolve around agricultural, especially taro fields, and the taro growth depended directly on shade from the surrounding forest and large canopy trees.
  • 1880-1910:
    • the great transformation from agricultural to "agroforestry" (combine of agricultural and forestry), for example the coconut plantations that were established under the support of churches, for an economic income purpose, and these plantations are mainly established in coastal lands, leading to a lack of development of interior lands at this time.
  • World War Ⅱ and post-war:
    • During the war time, the battlefields are near by the coastal lands, people emigrated from there and moved to mainland forest. After the war, plantations were taken by large companies. expert advisers and foreign entrepreneurs have been a constant feature and an increase of foreign companies happened[3]. Rural development projects were mainly taken by government.
  • 21s century:
    • Globalization brought timber companies, the development of logging by selling the forests, the logging activities expanded from government owned land to customary land[3].
    • The government corruption make an obstacle in the appeal against land disrupted[5].
    • The organization of logging includes negotiating between indigenous people and foreign companies before they can get a logging license[1], the later monitoring of the agreements are difficult, due to some companies ignoring the claims of indigenous people.
      • E.g.: the Goliti trees are not to be felled, since it is the essential canoe material, and it is important for villagers. However it seems to be taken by companies anyway[6].
    • 21s century, people's awareness of environmental protection is gradually increasing, some conservationists believe logging has affected forest reserves, they usually reforestation after logging. Using exotic species to guarantee the logs and pulp export value, or using local trees, not fast-logging, but in a high international value.

Important policies changing in detail:

Government of Mamaloni (1981-1984, 1989-1993, 1994-1997):

Mamaloni is an important leader in the history of logging in Solomon Island because during his three terms in office, he was involved in major changes and decisions making in the logging industry in the Solomon Islands[3]. The first period of government of Mamaloni stressed the decentralization of the power and he created provincial ministries, and the different provinces have the power to make decisions. During his second term in office, the financial management of the state was mainly dependent on unsustainable logging[3], he is the person who gave the permission to landowners to establish their own logging companies that allowed indigenous groups to join the logging market instead of just selling their lands to foreign companies, therefore more profits were earned by local people. He also was a director of local logging company, therefore he had a clear idea about what people need[3]. The official disloyalty and corruption were increasingly worsening in the later period and caused his loss of power, he lost the position of prime minister[5].

Legislative Reform

Forestry Act This was developed in 1969 to facilitate the establishment of plantations on government land[1]. However, this act has stopped for over a decade and is no longer in the works.
Forests Bill This bill was developed so that it provides mechanisms for slowing down the rate at which logging licences can be issued[1]. It provides for the enforcement of improved environmental standards so that the quality of regrowth of forests will be a more positive environment for plantation development [1].
Tax System Alterations There is no tax on log exports from the natural forests. Exporters pay around 25% of world market prices as a tax[1]. The Solomon Islands were looking into increasing their tax rates. This could maintain government revenue as the harvested volume will fall as marginally profitable companies would be forced to close down (but it's those who have the worst environmental standards & poorest records of managing the social impact of logging)[1].
Transparency International This the global society organization that fights against corruption. In this particular case, they see the corruption of logging money infiltrating the chef-led appeal system which resolved land disputes[7]. The corruption was felt and noticed all throughout the legal system from the "traditional judiciary to the customary land courts" because the country had hardly any lawyers who have worked with the logging companies[7]. Legal aid is available through the Public Solicitor's Office, but it is vastly under-resourced[7]. Log pond marriages were also common in the Solomon Islands, where young women, mostly under-aged teenagers were reportedly lured into exploitative relationships with foreign logging operatives for just a bag of rice or roofing materials[7]. This exploitation also has multi-generational consequences as research indicates that the children that result from these unions may not be fully accepted by the communities that they are born into and may not be considered eligible for land rights when they grow up[7]. Transparency International believes that "there should be no tribe in the Solomon Islands that is landless; if there is no land, that tribe might as well not exist, they lose their social standing, their worship place, [and] they lose their identity"[7].
Recent Logging Ban The leaders of the Central Island province in the Solomon Islands have decided not to issue new business licences to logging and mining companies after a local petition[8]. The ban is placed as local and international organizations have blamed the logging companies for their unsustainable and corrupt logging practices[8]. These practices have caused destruction of the islands' sensitive habitats and caused civil strife among islanders. The provincial governments in the Solomon Islands lack power to block logging outright, so therefore the Central Island province had to take a licensing approach to stop new operations in the attempt to stop the degradation of the archipelago's sensitive ecosystems[8]. Now the national government holds the power to permit logging in the country[8]. These companies who wish to log must obtain business licenses from provincial governments before they can even begin operations[8].

Affected Social Actors

Affected stakeholders represent the groups of people who have a long term effect relate to a specific area, they are either live here or have a long term work here. Affected stakeholders care about their environmental health, their body health affected by environment and the future nature protection because they do not want to destroy their home. This section will discuss all the affected stakeholders in detail include indigenous landowners and conservationists by using some specific examples.

Indigenous islanders (Landowners)

In the province of Temotu on the island called Nende, indigenous islanders saw logging company (Xiang Lin SI Ltd) put in logging machines and make logging roads with no consultation with the community[7]. The community of islanders wrote letters expressing their anger to the company but received no response. The landowners succeeded in getting a temporary injunction to temporary stop Xiang Lin's activities was granted, however, in a recent civil case, the company was allowed to begin logging again[7]. The operations however allegedly spread beyond the boundaries of the licensed concession which affects parts of the land that belonged to different tribes[7]. The landowners have no opportunity to object to the activities that were occurring and affecting their land as any grievances against logging operations must be made to a Customary Land Appeals Court within 30 days of a timber rights hearing, according to Solomon Islands' law[7]. It is unfair to the landowners as they are not able to stand up for themselves and even when they do, their voice is unheard. The majority of landowners did not give their consent to a lot of the logging practices, however, the provincial executive of Temotu recorded that there was an "overwhelming support" for logging in their report to the national government[7].

Conservationist

In Nende, conservationists and islanders feared that harvesting would cause chaos on the remote island's delicate system[7]. They realized that it would affect endemic and critically endangered species and their livelihoods[7]. They have already seen these impacts on neighboring islands (Vanikoro) where logging had begun only several years[7].

Interested Social Actors

Interested stakeholders mean the stakeholders who do not affect by the changing in environment in the long term, everyone who cares about the development and, or holds other benefits in economic, or interested in the products on the land can be interested stakeholders here. This part will introduce the interested groups involved in the forest and environment system in Solomon island.

The Forestry Division and the Forestry Management Project

This project allows the government to work with landowners to encourage and assist them to plant high value species such as teak, mahogany and indigenous trees (ie. rosewood) with an annual target of 1000 ha to be planted by landowners[1]. Their goal by 2010, was to have built an estate of 10,000 ha of high value plantation with the potential to produce annual revenue similar to that which is derived from the natural forests[1].This project will provide employment and increase the potential for downstream processing[1].

  • Approach of the Project
    • This program moved away from direct financial support and encouragement of communities to establish forests to require loggers and others to develop plantations[1].
  1. Targets and emphasis on individuals and families[1]
  2. No direct financial assistance is provided to plantation growers[1]
  3. Encouraged to plant only high- value species[1]
  4. Logging companies are not forced to carry our reforestation[1]
  • Project assisting in the sawmill industry
    • There have been studies done by the Forestry Management Project & independent consultants engaged by the Solomons Forestry Association (SFA) which suggest that the economic value to the country is greater from exporting logs rather than processing them[1].
    • Due to the dispersed nature of the resource, its variability, its small scale and the country's poor infrastructure and skill base explains why the Solomon Islands cannot compete with other countries with large scale integrated timber processing industries[1].
  1. Improving the quality of sawn timber[1]
  2. Expanding the range of timbers exported[1]
  3. Developing the furniture industry and other industries that use wood[1]

Foreign Logging Companies

International organizations have been blamed for the unsustainable and corrupt logging practices that have been occurring in the Solomon Islands[8]. They have been destroying the islands' sensitive habitats and created civil strife among the people who do inhabit the islands[8]. These foreign logging companies only invest in the logging practices and are not there physically to see the detrimental impact that they have caused.

Example of logging companies:

On the island called Nende, it was reported that several companies had been competing to harvest Nende's valuable old-growth timber[7].These companies were caught up in allegations of bribing provincial government leaders to help them galvanize local support for licenses[7]. Logging companies are legally required to hold timber rights hearings to obtain landowners' permission to log their land, and if granted, is then approved by the Commissioner of Forests[7]. All this conflict created tension and delayed the work for the logging companies.

In the situation regarding Nende, the Nende landowners tried to get provincial executive's original permission (that was originally granted in 2015 when he was still in power to log the forest overturned[7]. This resulted in a temporary injunction to halt one of the logging company's (Xiang Lin's) activities. In recent civil case however, the Solomon Islands High Court ruled in favour of the company and allowed logging to proceed[7].

Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)

On the one hand, NGOs work to inform the negative impacts of commercial logging the benefit of this move not only has the benefit of informing but also strongly encouraged indigenous people to build their plantations which are not built on a commercial logging purpose but built for environmental restoration[4]. Usually, plantations were established by the government but landowners were able to establish some small scale plantations based on the information they learned from NGOs, and the government also encouraged customary plantation in order to reduce the pressure of nature forest exploitation[4]. On the other hand, except promote the customary plantations, NGOs were also trying to spread the idea of forest certification in Solomon Island, a certified wood means it is from a well managed, sustainable forest[9]. The claims of NGOs is the forest certification will increase the quality of the products and products will have a greater market access when the woods are accepted at a global level, and secure land tenure instruments and appropriate taxation provisions would encourage more plantation[4].

Examples of NGOs:

In the province of Temotu on the island called Nende, the anti-corruption NGO Transparency International Solomon Islands was created[7]. This was a resource for owners who tried to oppose logging but were fighting a losing battle. There were a lot of protesters that were sent to prison[7].

Chris Bone who works with the New Zealand-based conservation NGO OceansWatch is concerned with the environmental consequences of logging in the Solomon Islands. He states that Xiang Lin never carried out the required environmental impact assessments and was breaching the logging code of practice in several other ways[7]. The logging practices are occurring too close to the water source and is polluting the river that is the island's main fresh water source[7]. The mud is seeping into the reefs, which destroys the habitat for the fish. The companies causing such harm to the environment by disobeying these laws are subjected to penalties, but the fines that are incurred as so small and are rarely imposed which do not make an impact[7].

Discussion

Rightful ownership of the land

Like all community forestry case studies, this one regarding the Solomon Islands is not different in how the indigenous people feel that they are not being respected and heard by the higher ups. Their land is being trampled on and used without their prior consent or knowledge and evidently affecting their livelihoods along with the ecosystems that they rely on. Although policies have been made in attempt to settle these matters, between landowners and logging companies, there are still instances where boundaries are crossed. Even though there are penalties for disobeying the laws, these penalties are not impactful enough or reinforced enough to stop misconduct.

The conflict of plantation use

As we discussed early in the case study, foreign logging companies are the main income group in this country but the logging industry is processing in an unsustainable way. Besides that, another problem of these companies is that they find out Solomon island has a perfect condition for raising some expensive trees, and that could be another strong resource of income[10]. However, the research done by Blumfield[10] and his colleagues suggested that this kind of plantations could lead to a wild range of problems like overstock, fell down malnutrition trees, the products were getting smaller in diameter, the transportation difficulties.

Teak plantation as an example of expensive tree species plantation:

A example of Teak Plantation

Teak is one of the world's top hardwood timber and teak plantations were built in Solomon Island for commercially using, the built of teak plantation did not reduce the logging of natural teak, instead, people still paid more attention to nature teak than plantations products. and the price of the nature teaks was increased due to the reduction in nature teaks[10]. Even the sizes of the plantations range from 0.1 ha to 7.4 ha, most of the teak plantations are small (mean 1.5 ha) and do not have enough logging areas to be commercially attractive[10]. Lack of thinning in a certain plantation have caught in an overstocked status with full of low poor quality trees, the overstocked situation lead to malnutrition trees[10]. For those big teaks, these timbers are always hard to process for local communities because they used to progress by professional mechanical processes and that increased the cost[10]. Transport big teaks are difficult too because these trees are often too heavy to transport on water or limited by port facilities, so it required a high transport costs. Another problem is expensive trees like teaks have no access or local market so most of these plantations are export timber resources[10].

Assessment

The social actors are mainly divided in two parts, affected actors and interested actors, overall affected stakeholders have relatively low power since they are not able to make decisions and they are usually voiceless group in Solomon Island, as a contrast, interested stakeholders are relatively high power group in the country, most of them have initiative of the policy making and own the right of logging.

Affected stakeholders are indigenous islanders and conservationists. Islanders own the land and sell their land to the companies to gain some reward, because they don't have the upper hand in negotiations with foreign companies[4]. Conservationists are the group who highly care about the environment and they are responsible for reporting the problems existing in the land and help to develop the country.

Affected Stakeholders: Role Relative Power
Indigenous islanders - Landowner

- recessive role in negotiation about the land selling

- gain low reward in the logging project.

- customary plantation

- most of them do not give consent to a logging practice, but their voice is unheard

Low
Conservationist - Care about the lands and environmental conditions in Solomon Island[5]

- the sustainable logging system is important to them in the long term in multiple aspects.

Low

Interested stakeholders are government , foreign logging companies and NGOs. Governments representatives may not affected by a specific area in a long term but they are the most powerful group of all of the actors, since they are able to decide the development policies and they are the access of logging industry for foreign companies and bridge between these companies and local people. Originally, foreign logging companies do not have much power on the land but they have economic capital, and they buy the land tenure from government or landowners, and they have control on the land they bought. NGOs are the group who do not gain benefit form the land and they do care about the environment as well, but they are not residences here and they do not have a long term relationship with the lands.

Interested Stakeholders: Role Relative Power
Government Representatives - policymaker (responsible for making decisions )

- Right to given logging license

- Monitor the execution of the policies

High
Foreign logging companies - They have control on the logging lands given by government

- Pay export tax

Medium
Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) - inform the negative impacts of commercial logging

- spread the idea of forest certification

Low

Recommendations

The main issue of the case study is that logging companies are destroying what is precious to islanders and ignoring the rights of those landowners. Logging is the main economical input for this country so it is not feasible to completely ban logging. We believe the Forestry Division and the Forestry Management Project is a great start for the Solomon Islands in making effective changes to the logging industry. In regards to the project's approach, it seems to be a very effective way to work with landowners even without the direct financial support. The main goals of the project are as follows.

  • Target and emphasis on individuals and families
    • For example, in the Melanesian society, the land is owned by the tribe but is used for gardening and other traditional uses by families who have been granted those various rights. With customary rights, parcels of land is used and the right can be further strengthened through utilization of that land[1]. By establishing a plantation, it helps the family to secure its right to that land and any crops that the family plants, belongs to them.
  • No direct financial assistance is provided to plantation growers
    • The families are encouraged to plant trees for the future benefits that will accrue meaning landowners who plant, are planting and managing for the long term[1]. Through past experiences, it was determined that direct cash incentives encourages people to plant for the short-term gain, but once the money stops, so does the tree planting and maintenance[1].
  • Encouraged to plant only high value trees
    • There is an emphasis on only planting the number of trees that can be well-tended and ensuring that tree planting is an annual activity[1].
  • Logging companies are not forced to carry out reforestation
    • They realized that logging companies do not have the skills or interest in creating plantations. By doing this, it encourages landowners to work with logging companies to get their assistance to help them establish plantations by providing roads and other inputs as a part of their stumpage obligations[1]. Landowners see the plantations as being theirs and created it with their resources, so they are interested in making sure the plantations are well established and maintained.

So far, this method has proved to be successful, with 10% of families in the country planting trees[1]. They hope to have an annual target of 1000 ha of trees to be planted by landowners[1]. We believe that bringing more awareness to the detrimental effects of logging and the addressing the concerns of the landowners is significant and we recommend that there should be more ways in order to implement this into the system.

References

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