Tarevalata, 'Kastom', Conserved Area Chivoko, Lauru Island, Solomon Islands

1 May 2008

The Tarevalata people call their traditional lands and coastal reefs by the same name as the clan, Tarevalata. In fact, the clan is named after the land. Situated on the northeastern shelf of Lauru Island (Choiseul) in the Solomon Islands, the Tarevalata lands are bordered by neighbouring clans with similar ownership of their traditional lands.

A resident of Chivoko navigates past an islet near Cape Alexander on his 8-hour journey to Taro, the provincial capital

Lauru, and indeed most of the Solomon Islands, as other islands in Melanesia, is a patchwork of traditional territories and customary lands. The boundaries of clan and tribal lands shift regularly, as marriages, conflicts and compensation claims are settled through exchanges of land and resources. The Tarevalata lands are one example of this mosaic of customary tenure. However, the Tarevalata are a unique example in the context of the change and circumstances facing the Solomon Islands in the 21st Century.

The Tarevalata lands, their ‘kastom’ area, has been under increasing threat from external interests, beyond the common claims of their neighbours. The Tarevalata lands are primed with rare and valuable hardwood timber species, and the gentle slopes and lowland hills are the perfect environment for commercial logging. Since 2003, the Tarevalata have faced numerous attempts by logging operations to access their territory.

With assistance from the Lauru Land Conference of Tribal Communities (a Lauru based organization that supports indigenous rights) and other external supporters, the Tarevalata have been able to resist the logging interests through high-court rulings in favour of their land rights. Where loggers have trespassed they have been ejected physically and their equipment confiscated. But for how long?

The Tarevalata invited discussion over a period of three days in April 2008, which included a community meeting and a number of interviews, as well as a boundary walk of the Tarevalata forest.

This report documents the Tarevalata views and opinions of their ‘kastom’ land and resources, and expresses some of their ideas and aspirations for the future.

Attached files