News Release

Solomon Islands Government Office of the Prime Minister Honiara, Solomon Islands August 31, 2007

The Minister of Forests, Environment and Conservation Mark Kemakeza yesterday launched the Governments National Forestry Assessment Report and the National Forest Plantation Program.

Mr Kemakeza said the two documents are fundamental to the present government’s rural development policy which included the management of the country’s forest resources.

"The way Forest is managed is critical to life and the extent to which forest is handled has an impact locally and globally," he said. "The climate of the world depends significantly on the way Forest is managed".

For Solomon Islands forest is primarily used for commercial and economic benefits and in many occasions these two factors supersede environmental factors.

"Somewhere along the way a balance needs to be seriously considered," the Minister said.

The two reports highlighted the historical and current perspective of the state of the forests of Solomon Island and the future direction and emphasis of the industry.

Natural forest is the country’s primary income generating industry providing, approximately 65 to 70 percent of foreign exchange and directly employs some 5,000 locals whose total wages add up to SB$50 million [US$ 7.2 million] annually.

As the dominant industry in Solomon Islands it provides source of income to land owners, and the Government - about SB$100 million [US$14.4 million]- annually in the form of export duty to round logs.

But Mr Kemakeza warned the country’s forest industry through logging is expected to reduce and eventually disappear in the next eight years.

The challenge has triggered the present government to look at alternative revenue earning sources in a move to preserve the country’s forests.

"The government must aggressively pursue alternative revenue sources to maintain the current level of revenue collection as we enjoy with the logging industry today while trying to maximize revenue capture both in monitoring log shipment as well as effective legislative framework, compliance measures and political will power," he said.

The Forestry Ministry is now embarking on a National Forest Plantation Development Program in a move to address the problems facing the country’s forestry sector.

The program aims to put in action the bottom up approach policy of the Government by encouraging and supporting small holding community groups, families and individuals to grow trees on their land.

"My Ministry will provide support through genetically superior seeds, basic tools and capacity building through a network of Field Extension Officers" Mr Kemakeza said.

The program is designed in such a way that the Forest Department Field Extension Officers will have counterparts in villages throughout the country called Village Based Extension Officers.

These local people will be recruited on contract basis and will be a focal point of contact for the extension officers in the villages.

"The structure of this newly established unit called Research and Reforestation is now in place and ready for action," the Minister said.

The program is designed to focus on constituencies where the Constituency Development Officers will be engaged to monitor and report on the progress of this program in their respective constituencies.

The government has allocated SB$4 million [US$574,000] for the program in this year’s development budget.

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