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Mirror, mirror on the wall

Posted on 13 March 2015

Wait, what mirror?
Wait, what mirror? These are not particularly abundant in Solomon Islands. I guess you wouldn't call them "essential"…

Lately it's been a whirlwind of awareness workshops and trainings, so I've been staying overnight at communities around Ghizo and Kolombangara Islands. This 'lack of mirror' situation originally had me concerned about my general appearance and presentation. However, I am slowly (but, surely) losing the need to care about what I look like…ever.

Regardless of not being able to suffice my daily fill of western-developed narcissism, I've had a great time assisting in the facilitation of these community awareness programs on (1) the Ridges to Reef (R2R) approach, (2) Inshore Fish Aggregating Devices (IFADs), and (3) Catch Per Unit Effort (CPUE).

--- The Ridges to Reef (R2R) community awareness program is being supported by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF). Through this grant, WWF-Solomon Islands has visited over 6 communities on Ghizo and Kolombangara Islands to highlight the interconnectedness of marine and terrestrial ecosystems. These programs have been led by David Boseto, a consultant from Ecological Solutions with experience in developing and implementing R2R.  Given the number of things that can cause delays with these awareness workshops, I have become an expert in patience.

"We forgot to ask him where the generator was."
"They're not going to want to climb into the truck when it's raining like this."
"It's too bright for the projector cloth. Let's take everything down and set up somewhere else."
"We're a bit late, so everyone has already gone out to do their gardening and probably won't come back."
"The surge protector got wet."
"They are Seventh Day Adventists (SDA), so they won't be coming until evening time."

OK, no problem.

--- In my previous blog, I talked about the Inshore Fish Aggregating Device (IFAD) project briefly. Recall, IFADs attract higher value pelagic fish, which in turn provides communities with alternative fishing sites and reduces pressure on near shore reefs.  In addition to deploying these rafters, a large component to ensuring the success of these is community awareness. Sara Martin, IFAD project coordinator, has been leading these workshops. Without this component, community members (particularly, fishermen) may not know what the rafters are and take valuable parts (e.g. rope) or develop jealousy towards communities that are closest to the rafters.

My main contribution to these workshops was doing Sara's hair. From Sara's corn rows to Tingo's half-shaved beard and my half-shaved head, it's quite obvious that the Gizo field team takes hair presentation very seriously.

--- Catch Per Unit Effort (CPUE) training was led by Tingo Leve (aka Solomon Islands fish guru). This training is part of the IFAD project, with the goal of getting fishermen to collect fish data around rafters (e.g. number of fish, species). In addition to learning alongside these fishermen, I acquired several experiences where I actually feared going to the bathroom.

Upon arrival, a young girl took us around the back of our leaf hut to show us this aforementioned "bathroom".  Instead of laying eyes on an outhouse of some kind, I found myself looking at a two-log bridge leading to the mangroves/crocodile territory. So, ok. The routine of walking the plank, squatting wherever, and hoping you're not stepping on someone else's business was fine. That was all fine. Night time, however, was a different story. After being told the first morning that there was a baby crocodile swimming around, Sara and I decided it was unsafe to venture off to the bathroom at night. You have to go pee? No, you don't.

--- Recently, I got a small dose of city life. All staff were required to attend a proposal development workshop in Honiara (the capital of Solomon Islands). What with all the tall buildings, air conditioning, and insane traffic, I experienced a slight city culture shock. Though this was quickly replaced by a yearning to be back in my home city Toronto. While most of the workshop participants stayed at the fancy shmancy Mendana hotel, the Gizo staff set up camp at Rock Haven. As you can tell from the names, the accommodations were not quite the same. Nevertheless, as the door opened to our room Sara and I gasped at the sight of bed frames. What?! We don't have to sleep on the floor with 1-inch thick mattresses? Awesome!

The workshop was hosted by WWF-Solomon Islands to facilitate the development of a rights-based management (RBM) proposal with WWF-Netherlands. Participants came from the UK, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Netherlands, each having varying backgrounds in communications, RBM, project management, and field work. This multi-disciplinary hodge podge of people resulted in some challenges and heated discussions, but the workshop outputs will (hopefully) provide a clearly defined and realistic direction for this project.

--- Most importantly, how 'bout that cyclonic weather? As cyclone PAM heads towards Fiji and Vanuatu, Solomon Islands has been getting quite the torrential downpours and crazy winds. As I've mentioned before, my house sits atop a very big hill overlooking the ocean. While this is all excellent when soaking up the sunset, cyclone season has made me feel differently. The other day, in fear of my leaf house falling down the hill and into the abyss, I had to retreat to town and find someone to stay with for the night. Solomon problems. 

Rachel Wang

WWF-Solomon Islands
October 2014 - April 2015
Salome Topo introducing R2R project
© WWF / Rachel Wang

Related links

David Boseto presenting on R2R approach
© WWF / Rachel Wang
Sara Martin presenting on IFAD project
© WWF / Rachel Wang
Sara Martin (IFAD project coordinator)
© WWF / Rachel Wang
Tingo Leve leading CPUE training
© WWF / Rachel Wang
Tingo Leve leading CPUE training
© WWF / Rachel Wang
Two-log bridge to mangrove "bathroom"
© WWF / Sara Martin
RBM workshop in Honiara
RBM workshop in Honiara
© WWF / Vilisite Tamani