This year, SPREP is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the signing of the SPREP Treaty, which brought about the establishment of the organisation as a separate, autonomous body, tasked with the protection and conservation of the Pacific environment.
The organisation has seen countless experts and passionate environmentalists over the past 30 years, from the Pacific region and around the world, who have contributed their knowledge and expertise to the building of a resilient Pacific environment.
In 2013, SPREP established the Pacific Islands Environment Leadership Awards (PIELA) to recognise, promote and celebrate outstanding contributions of individuals, non-governmental organisations, private enterprises and countries and territories towards achieving an environmentally sustainable and resilient Pacific.
Mr Henry Kaniki of Solomon Islands is a recipient of the PIELA 2020, for his leadership and community work in environmental sustainability and conservation. He is the Conservation Programme Manager for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Pacific Solomon Islands, based out of Honiara. Mr Kaniki is also the President of the Solomon Islands Rangers Association and is an adviser to several community-based organisations in the Solomon Islands.
“As an Islander born and raised in a coastal community, I have a deep connection with people and nature. Giving back to the people is the driving factor that keeps me going in my work”, says Mr Kaniki about his environmental and conservation efforts.
As part of the SPREP 30th celebrations, Mr Kaniki shares through this Q&A more on his work for a Resilient Pacific.
Q: What Pacific environmental challenge do you work to address?
A: I work to address overfishing of marine coastal resources – over the past decades, I have learnt to understand that, the most important issue affecting communities is due to overfishing/over reliance on marine resources for income, livelihood opportunity, because out in the remoter provinces there is lack or minimal financial opportunities. Also other threats that I have encountered in working with rural communities are different fishing methods used for instance; night spearfishing, as it's easier to catch as the fish sleep and the use of under size nets.
I also work in threatened species and climate change – working with an organisation (Arnavon Community Marine Park) that protects a critically endangered species (Hawksbill turtle) for seven years was a rewarding year for me personally because I was able to build strong relationships with stakeholders at different levels to work for a common purpose. The declaration of the first legal Marine National Park for Solomon Islands in 2017 under the protected Areas Act 2010 paved a way for other organisations and communities to scale out the initiative under the Act. As a result, it has contributed the international commitment of Government towards 30 x30 goal.
Q: What are two key work activities or outcomes you are most proud of?
A: Being able to mobilise rural communities to establish local organisations to address management of natural resources (marine and forest) and create an avenue to access alternative livelihood through small grants from donor partners for the people is an outcome I am proud of.
I also value our work done to support the national Government to achieve its regional and international commitment, that protects 30% of the global marine and terrestrial area by 2030 (30x30). In 2017, we coordinated the Arnavons project, and with the support from key international NGO partners (The Nature Conservancy), Provincial, communities and National Government, we led the initiative to the declaration of the first Marine Park in the country.
Q: What is your vision for the Pacific?
A: Pacific communities that move progressively towards a comprehensive and collaborative partnership with stakeholders, donors, inter-governmental agencies and local communities to address the urgent priorities that are affecting the livelihood of coastal communities. This includes cross cutting issues on climate change, unsustainable use of natural resources such as over harvesting of marine resources.
Q: What advice would you give to young people interested in working to protect our environment?
A: Protecting the environment is more than just a paid job. As Islanders, the ocean is our heritage and our livelihood. The responsibility is in our hands, and it requires passion, commitment, and extraordinary effort to make positive and meaningful change in our communities.
Q: What good environmental habit or tip would you like to share with us all so we can be part of the solution?
A. I have three that I would like to share!
- Learning and sharing of knowledge are parallel to each other thus whenever we learn new skills on our journey it is crucial to put it into practice in our community.
- Develop your story and aim to disseminate the key message at the right avenue that is building an impact story takes time and effort therefore, see challenge as a learning curve and keep on striving until a vision becomes reality.
- Network and partnership with donors and stakeholders is critical and over time, this good relationship can elevate your environmental initiative.
Q: What message do you have for the Secretariat as we celebrate 30 Years of service to our Pacific?
A: Let us focus on what we are good at in our region and keep our eyes open to new innovative approaches that are durable and can be scaled out, up and deep across the Pacific communities
Thank you, Henry, for spending time with us and Happy 30th Anniversary SPREP!