Blog | 02 Jul, 2024

BirdLife International teams up with East Rennell villagers to overcome environmental challenges

Rennell Island in the Solomon Archipelago is a unique place.  The East Rennell World Heritage Site (ERWHS), the first UNESCO natural property inscribed with customary ownership and management, is situated on the southernmost part of the island. East Rennell is home to rich species of wildlife, an untouched forest vegetation and the famous Lake Tegano, providing livelihood for some 900 residents across 4 villages.

 

But the people of East Rennell are facing growing challenges. Climate change impacts, invasive species, and changes in available land, freshwater and marine resources are all taking a toll. Their crops are suffering, necessities like water are depleting, and their endemic flora and fauna are under threat.

BirdLife International, with funding from the Kiwa Initiative, is working hand-in-hand with the East Rennell communities to find solutions. In January 2024, a Participatory/Rapid Appraisal (PRA) assessment was conducted, where local experts sit down with the villagers to understand their challenges and develop ideas for addressing them. The villagers shared the same stories – the decline of water quality from the lake (for drinking & cooking); the decrease in availability of good land for planting crops and the limited choice of crops for cultivation with loss of traditional knowledge suggested, also since the swamp taro which is one of the most important staple food crops for the communities has not been growing well due to brackish water intrusion from the lake. The available land for growing crops was decreasing, and villagers were losing some traditional ways of farming that used to work well. These were made worse with the invasive Black Rat invading their gardens and destroying their hard-earned harvests.