Population, climate pressures imperil Solomon Islands’ food security
BUALA, Solomon Islands (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The peaceful Maringe coastal lagoon in the Solomon Islands’ remote Isabel province may not look like a place threatened by food insecurity. But declining marine resources and rapid population growth have galvanised local leaders into considering the emerging signs of climate change and taking action to protect fish and other marine life.
There’s not a breath of wind under the tropical sun as our motorised canoe speeds across the lagoon, some 11 km long and 3 km wide, separating the main provincial settlement of Buala on Santa Isabel Island from the open sea of the southwest Pacific, visible beyond a chain of islands and reefs.
“In this lagoon area today we have about 9,000 people living in 15 villages, plus another four to five villages in the highlands (behind Buala) and the population is growing,” explained Alex Nindi, chairman of the Maringe Lagoon Conservation Committee, shouting over the roar of the outboard motor. “Before we used to catch a lot of fish and they were big, but now we only get small ones.”
Freddy Haile, fisheries officer in Buala, told Thomson Reuters Foundation that coastal and reef fisheries have been severely impacted by over-harvesting in the past 10 years.
A marine survey conducted in August by The Nature Conservancy (TNC), an international NGO, found that commercially important invertebrates, such as bêche-de-mer (sea cucumbers) and clams, were depleted, while fish sizes were small. At nearby Sulei Island, 80 percent of surrounding reefs were covered in thick algae, which is impacting marine life and may be caused by effluent from human settlements and logging activities in the area, TNC said.
LOW CONTRACEPTIVE USE
Isabel province has a population of about 30,000, which is growing at 2.5 percent per year, with the Buala region the most densely inhabited. The rate of contraceptive use – which is 24 percent for the province, compared with an average of 55 percent for all least developed countries – reflects the significant reproductive health challenges facing Pacific Island developing states.
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