IUCN is helping inspire communities who own the catchment area which supplies Honiara's water to preserve the ecosystem for themselves and their children.
The Kovi/Kongulai catchment is a significantly important water source for the 60, 000 people that live in Honiara; the capital city of Solomon Islands. Keeping this ecosystem healthy is critical for the local people, the biodiversity and the nation’s economy.
Over the past year IUCN endeavoured to produce an eco-tourism strategy as an income incentive for the land owning communities of the Kovi/Kongulai catchment. To complete the eco-tourism strategy, biodiversity and cultural assessments of the catchment area were undertaken.
Results of these assessments and the strategy were presented to the land owning communities in a workshop coordinated by IUCN from 4 - 8 February, 2013 in Honiara. Fifteen landowners attended this workshop together with representatives from the Applied Geoscience and Technology Division (SOPAC) of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, the United National Development Programme and various government departments from Solomon Islands.
The biodiversity assessments revealed that the catchment area has a very intact forest and surrounding watershed system with some decline in aquatic fauna attributed to over-harvesting.
The Kovi/Kongulai catchment area is known to have significant archaeological and cultural value in the history of the Kovi/Kongulai people. The cultural assessment identified a total of 11 sites found within the area that have high potential for tourism development.
“It was important to inform the resource owners of the results of the surveys and the need for further work to confirm that there are features of the catchment that could serve as tourist attractions,” indicated Dr Milika Sobey, Water and Wetlands Programme Coordinator at IUCN Oceania.
Dr Sobey added that the resource owners were impressed by the findings and realised the importance of maintaining a healthy catchment that could continue to provide the ecosystem services vital to their livelihood.
“As a next phase, a proposal is being prepared by IUCN and the SPC/SOPAC team to be submitted to the UNDP Small Grants programme to seek further funding for the development of a management plan for the catchment,” said Dr Sobey.
The workshop culminated with positive remarks on the collaboration between the landowners, government and regional organizations. Next steps were also mapped on the final day to further the conservation effort for the Kovi/Kongulai catchment.
IUCN's work in this project has been supported by the Keidanren Nature Conservation Fund and has complemented the activities of the GEF-SOPAC regional Integrated Water Resource Management project conducted through the Solomon Islands Ministry of Mines and Energy.