In the East Melanesian Islands Biodiversity Hotspot, the young organization Mai-Maasina Green Belt (MMGB) is bringing together the conservationists of Malaita Island after strengthening its own capacity with the help of a CEPF grant.
MMGB’s founders—all of whom are active with other conservation organizations in the region—established the community-based nonprofit in 2017 after discussing common challenges at a CEPF grantee exchange meeting in Honiara in 2016.
“Our idea was to develop a network that could try and help each other to protect and manage our community lands and the island of Malaita as a whole,” said Edgar Pollard, director of MMGB.
After receiving CEPF funding during its first year of operations—a pivotal time for any nascent organization—MMGB implemented key capacity-building activities that led to a tremendous jump in its score on CEPF’s Civil Society Tracking Tool: from a baseline score of 29.5 out of 100 to a score of 52.2.
“The funding provided for the development of our conservation strategies and policies has been a key intervention for us,” said Pollard.
Members of the organization came together and created governing and guiding documents, including a strategic action plan, organizational and financial policies, and a business feasibility study—all designed to ensure that MMGB continues conservation efforts across Malaita for years to come.
Establishing and strengthening governance structures is crucial for increasing an organization’s capacity, and MMGB made significant improvements on this front. For example, MMGB convened its first annual meeting in AreAre, where 30 chiefs, men, women, youth and conservation leaders from 11 areas in Kwaio and AreAre gathered to discuss the vision and objectives of the organization.
Engaging with local community members and other Indigenous-led conservation groups in Malaita has been essential to the growth and success of MMGB. For example, major partners of MMGB include the Baru Conservation Alliance (BCA) and Wai Hau Conservation Foundation, both of which have received their own CEPF capacity-building grants.
In 2020, MMGB collaborated with BCA, Wai Hau and other members of the MMGB network to undertake a cross-island scoping trek to spread the message of conservation across Malaita and to better understand the needs of current and potential members of MMGB. The trip was a success, resulting in the MMGB membership base expanding from 10 to 30 members who represent communities, tribes and other interested groups across Malaita.
“Communities are beginning to realize the value and importance of conservation and sustainable development,” said Pollard. “Many communities are now engaged in conservation-related initiatives through the MMGB network. This has created an avenue for conservation communities to work together.”
MMGB also has already made an important contribution to Malaita’s environmental policy. The organization helped convince the Malaita provincial government to pass an ordinance against logging in February 2021.
The organization is now planning to build from the organizational framework established with the help of the initial CEPF grant and is implementing a second CEPF-funded project to share with other Solomon Islands organizations techniques