A cultural landscape approach to community-based conservation in Solomon Islands
Richard K Walter, University of Otago
Richard J Hamilton, The Nature Conservancy, Asia Pacific Division; ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University
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International environmental organizations have an increasing commitment to the development of conservation programs in high-diversity regions where indigenous communities maintain customary rights to their lands and seas. A major challenge that these programs face is the alignment of international conservation values with those of the indigenous communities whose cooperation and support are vital. International environmental organizations are focused on biodiversity conservation, but local communities often have a different range of concerns and interests, only some of which relate to biodiversity. One solution to this problem involves adoption of a cultural landscape approach as the ethical and organizational foundation of the conservation program. In our conservation work in coastal Melanesia, we have developed a cultural landscape approach that involves the construction of a conceptual model of environment that reflects the indigenous perceptions of landscape. This model incorporates cultural, ideational, and spiritual values alongside other ecosystem services and underpins the conservation activities, priorities, and organizational structure of our programs. This cultural landscape model was a reaction to a survey of environmental values conducted by our team in which Solomon Islanders reported far greater interest in conserving cultural heritage sites than any other ecosystem resources. This caused a radical rethinking of community-based conservation programs. The methodologies we adopted are derived from the fields of archaeology and historical anthropology, in which there is an established practice of working through research problems within the framework of indigenous concepts of, and relationship to, landscape. In our work in Isabel Province, Solomon Islands, coastal communities have enthusiastically adopted conservation programs that are based on cultural landscape models that recognize indigenous values. A particularly useful tool is the Cultural Heritage Module, which identifies cultural heritage sites that become targets of conservation management and that are used as part of a holistic framework for thinking about broader conservation values.
archaeology; biodiversity; climate change; Coral Triangle; heritage; Solomon Islands
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