Sirebe Tribal Association first to receive carbon credit, $1.2m payment estimated per year


Sirebe Tribal Association in Sasamuga, south Choiseul has become the first conservation site in the country to receive carbon credit from carbon trading.

After years of conservation work, the association has received an amount of over $300,000 in quarterly payment for carbon credit with an estimated amount of around $1.2 million per year according to the agreement made with the buyers.

A ranger doing inventory for carbon calculation

Operating as the Sirebe Business Company under the Babatana Rainforest Conservation Project, the association works in partnership with the Natural Resources Development Foundation (NRDF) as their coordinator and the Nakau Program as their operator.

In 2019, the Sirebe conservation area was declared as the First National Terrestrial Protected Area under the Protected Areas Act 2010 in the Solomon Islands.

With over 10 years now since they started work on the conservation site, the process on which the Sirebe tribe ensured that their area reached the eligible level for carbon trading, was a complicated task.

In an interview with SIBC News, Sirebe Business Company Director Linford Pitatamae said with over 500 members in the association, it was only through their cooperation that they were able to go through all the steps required for carbon trade.

“It was indeed a lot of hard work that took us over 10 years to finally achieve this. Unlike logging, carbon trade goes through a number of steps. You have to complete 12 steps to be declared as a protected area before actually doing carbon trade and that takes a lot of patience.

“One thing that kept us strong minded to conserve our forests this long is having the mentality that there is only one Sirebe Tribal Land, and if we exploit it now, what will we leave behind for our children? So, we decided to preserve our forests but at the same time we can earn money from it.”

Sirebe Community Company Director Linford Pitatamae. Photo Supplied

Mr Pitatamae said the tribal association received a lot of help over the years from non-government organizations such as the NDRF, Live and Learn Solomon Islands, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) forestry program and Ecological Solutions, including advisors from the Ministry of Environment and Conservation. 

“After we were declared a Protected Area, these groups helped us in mapping, land use planning such as deciding on where future villages and future garden sites will be situated and also deciding on preferred locations in the area that would be left out for sustainable harvesting sites. After doing this, 840 hectares of land was identified as suitable for carbon trading.”

Mr. Pitatamae stated that the carbon shares received are managed by the company and for further benefits to the people, the association formed a Benefit Sharing Plan which is based on the priorities and needs of the people. 

The people come up with a project, for example a house, as a priority and the Benefit Sharing Plan will ensure that they get the assistance they need to achieve their needs and the plan goes under review after three years.

He added, with the current covid-19 situation in the country, the first carbon payment has helped people in the Sirebe Tribe financially as well.

“With the first carbon payment, we created this Covid-19 assistance where we share cash to families to help them purchase foods that are available in shops here while waiting for ships to come over with more cargo. Once we return to normalcy, more benefits will be distributed equally to families,” said Pitatamae.

Mr. Pitatamae also encouraged landowners to do away with logging and look at more sustainable ways of earning income from forest trees. 

“Although it took us years of hard work, we are very happy with the assistance we have received from the carbon trade, and I think it was a lesson for us too. If we were to do logging, our forests will be gone in a few years but with carbon trading, we still have our forests and we can still use the forest for domestic uses. 

“So, I encourage landowners to consider this approach when wanting to develop their land. Remember that there are other safe alternatives to get income from forest trees without completely exploiting resources such as our forests that will take decades to get back,” he said. 

Sirebe Protected Area rangers. Photo Supplied

In carbon trading or carbon emission trading, carbon-emitting industries such as power industries buy credits to offset their emissions into the atmosphere. According to CNBC, carbon offsets help balance the carbon footprint of industrial companies by funding environmental projects that reduce greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere.

Meanwhile, a Solomon Islands Ecologist who has worked closely with the Sirebe Tribal Association in 2014 under Ecological Solutions Solomon Islands, Dr. Patrick Pikacha has applauded the tribe for finally receiving carbon credit.

Speaking to SIBC News, Dr. Pikacha said Sirebe is a unique case for Solomon Islands and the Pacific as it has ticked all the boxes in having a Natural Biodiversity report and a certified carbon assessment.

 ” It’s quite difficult to provide sustainable economic opportunities to land owners who want to protect their land but also benefit from their land but for Sirebe, what we saw was a community with strong leadership values. 

“The achievement by Sirebe also shows the importance of the collegial partnership of the community and with international partners. It is not an easy process but the tribe has shown that tribes can protect forests, rivers, trees and biodiversity while also smartly receiving payments from off-setting carbon to developed countries,” he said.

Dr. Pikacha said the government must also be acknowledged as they have provided the legal mechanisms where landowners can protect their land.

He pointed out that  Solomon Islanders should be proud of Sirebes achievement.

“We must thank the government that it provided the legislature for Protected Areas which gives us the opportunity to protect our land. Although there are issues with it, it really is the only mechanism that we have to protect our land and to look into resource management.

“What Sirebe paved for Solomon Islands, we really should be proud of because it has opened the minds of people and communities into opportunities that we wouldn’t have dreamt of 20 years ago, like selling carbon.”

by Eliza Kukutu

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