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The 2017 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP23) highlighted climate change-related challenges small-island developing state face on a daily basis. The Solomon Islands, a double chain of islands located in the southwest Pacific, is not a stranger to such challenges. Exposure to natural hazards influences greatly the country’s ability to reach Suitable Development Goals (SDGs) and be resistant and prepared for an always-greater susceptibility to climate change. As is widely known, forests can significantly mitigate natural disasters at the same fighting climate change with its carbon sequestration potential. Recognizing forests’ potential, the Solomon Islands has embarked on a challenging journey of protecting and managing its forests sustainably with the support of the UN-REDD Programme. 

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A great majority of the Solomon Islands is covered with forests, of which more than half is classified as primary forest. Forests are not only food security and livelihoods of coastal communities in the Solomon Islands, but they also represent an important safety net for possible natural disasters that are not that rare on the islands. Forests can limit earthquake damage, mitigate floods, prevent and rehabilitate landslides. The country’s 34 000 ha of mangroves are also essential in providing coastal protection against the actions of waves, wind and water currents. While the country’s deforestation rates are relatively low at less than 1% per year, forest degradation is among the most severe in the region due to heavy exploitation of timber resources and continues the expansion of industrial plantations. To reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) in the country, the Solomon Islands joined the UN-REDD Programme as a partner country in 2010. Later that same year, the government received a USD 550 000 grant from the UN-REDD Programme Fund to develop a National REDD+ Action Plan.  Today, the country continues its efforts by working on the design of its National Forest Inventory (NFI) and Forest Reference (Emissions) Level (FREL/FRL), crucial steps in any REDD+ journey. To enhance knowledge on the subject, two technical workshops on “Historical Annual Forest and Land Use Change Assessment and Forest Reference Level in the Solomon Islands” were organized on 8 November 2017 and  14 March 2018 by the Ministry of Forest and Research (MoFR) of the Solomon Islands with technical assistance from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and financial support from the UN-REDD Programme and the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

SI article FAO 2During the first workshop, the participants explored and learnt about the forest and land use change of Solomon Islands and understood the processes leading towards the construction of an NFI database and FREL/FRL documentation. FREL/FRL represents a crucial step in any REDD+ process, as it serves as a benchmark for assessing their performance in implementing REDD+ activities.

Building on the success of the first meeting, the purpose of the second GEF-funded workshop was to share the draft design and methods of the National Forest Inventory, present the scope of the Forest Reference Emission Level and share the draft Action Plan and a Road Map for the submission of the FR(E)L to the UNFCCC.

The participants represented key sectors of the country including senior officers from the Ministry of Forest and Research, Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management and Meteorology, Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, Ministry of Mines, Ministry of Fisheries, Ministry of Lands, Housing and Survey, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Other key partners include the NGOs such as World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), The Nature Conservancy in the Pacific Islands (TNC), Natural Resources Development Foundation (NRDF), The Solomon Islands Development Trust (SIDT) and other developments partners namely New Zealand Aid, Australian Aid, Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (SPC/GIZ), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) and the UNDP CB-2 project.

In his opening remarks, Mr Vaeno Vigulu, the Permanent Secretary of the MoFR, emphasized the importance of having projects such as the “Capacity building on GHG inventory in LULUCF sector, NFI and the establishment of REDD+ FRL project” in Solomon Islands, as they provide much-needed support for the country’s National REDD+ Action Plan through the preparatory activities on MRV and UNFCCC reporting requirements. He also acknowledged the continued collaboration between the MoFR and other relevant government agencies, such as Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Planning and the key donor and technical partners such as the FAO, UN-REDD and GEF in achieving these important milestones for the Solomon Islands.

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Updated draft results of the forest and land use change assessment from 2000 to 2015 of Solomon Island presented during the 2nd Technical Workshop, were collected using Collect Earth, a Google Earth plugin developed in FAO for forest sampling analysis in synchronism with Google Earth Engine and Open Foris Collect. These data will help the country to tailor its future REDD+ actions and measure its successes in reducing deforestation and forest degradation.

 

Useful links:

National Approach to REDD+ in the Solomon Islands

Solomon Islands REDD+ Readiness Roadmap 2014-2020

Solomon Islands on UN-REDD workspace

FAO REDD+ web page

FAO Open Foris tools

Collect Earth software

Solomon Islands Ministry of Forest and Research,

Solomon Islands Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management and Meteorology,

Solomon Islands Ministry of Fisheries,

Solomon Islands Ministry of Lands, Housing and Survey,

Solomon Islands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade

 

 

For more information, please contact:

 

Aru Mathias

Lead Technical Officer

SAP/PNG FAO Country Office

 

Hitofumi Abe

Chief Technical Advisor, FAO

EU/FAO PNG National Forest Inventory Project & UN-REDD PNG National Programme

 

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