26 July 2009
We came to Paeva at the invite of Lisa Chouquette, a name that will be familiar to anyone who has dived in Hawaii. Lisa has fallen in love with the Solomon islands and has started a business here www.solomondiveadventures.com Lisa is committed to getting as many local people involved in the business as possible and has trained 5 to Dive Master level and has started training >100 local folk in basic SCUBA. As well as the dive business Lisa has already done so much for this community with other ventures such as a library, kindergarten and support for the local primary School. Our role here was to lean from Lisa and to support her where we could. We had also been asked by the International Reef Check organisation to look out for Coral bleaching in the area.
We have spent 4 full days here and have been very busy. Lisa asked us to spend some time with the older primary school kids and this proved a lot of fun. 2 days were spent giving basic reef ecology talks and showing the kids how we do our Reef Check surveys. Paeva is a great place to teach the kids because, being Seventh Day Adventists they do not eat the shellfish. Within the small lagoon where we are anchored Lisa has encouraged the community to start a small Marine Protected Area, a great spot for teaching the kids and for all of us to observe some really large clams!
Talking to Lisa I heard about an interesting small business in neighbouring Bichy village that had been supported by James Udy from the University of Queensland (UQ). I am very interested in looking at small sustainable businesses and had been trying for some time to locate a hand coconut oil press - apparently the folks at Bichy had one and had already sold out all the oil they had produced. I think the production of "cold pressed virgin coconut oil" might be a viable small business for Karkar Island, PNG where their coconuts have exceptionally high oil content. The villages on Karkar where we work will be able to determine the future of their own coconut plantation soon when the lease to an expatriate runs out in a few years. Rather than selling into the low value copra market I hope that they can add value themselves to increase revenue.
The stroll to Bichy was more like a trek through Jurassic Park and after 12 hours sleep I am still in recovery mode! It turned out that it was a 16km each way trek through the jungle then along the windward foreshore. The varied terrain included steep slippery paths (some places needed ropes), mud to mid calf, precarious boulder beaches, soft sand, razor sharp Coral rocks and a couple of little rivers to ford. To add to the fun were occasional hand size spiders, a snake, 32c heat, and torrential rain. I found it very frustrating having to watch every footfall when there was so much to see too. There were many fascinating bird and frog calls, some of which were straight out of Jurassic Park! We did see a few parrots, a large Sea Eagle, a finger nail size tree frog with a song that could be heard from 100m, Sulphur Crested Cockatoos and a Hornbill!
Bichy was a very interesting village where the community had decided to buck the trend of the rest of the Solomon Islands by keeping the loggers out. Being on the windward shore made it hard for them to utilise the sea but they have developed death defying swimming and canoeing skills. The kids were amazing, leaping off rocks into a white maelstrom and body surfing into an unyielding rocky foreshore. Gardner thought he would try to emulate them and after 2 minutes emerged bruised battered and bleeding, wondering how these 7 year olds had developed rubber heads!
The oil press was interesting and definitely a possibility for Karkar. This morning we clean up, get water then head for Gizo where we clear out for Papua New Guinea.