Rural Solomon Islanders live an eclectic mix of traditional and more modern ways. Most are subsistence farmers and fishermen – growing their own organic food, fishing and selling what they have extra as surplus in local markets. They also grow some export crops like coconuts and cocoa – a tenuous connection to our global economy despite their remoteness from it.
In the villages there are no roads, no telephones, no shopping centres, no access to electricity, very limited use of fuel and little presence of any kind of government. Yet despite the lack of modern conveniences these communities are well organised, provide their own services, maintain beautiful villages and have a very rich and diverse culture.
Local people have a rich knowledge of and make practical use of their environment – their forests, land, gardens, reefs and ocean. Most houses are made in the traditional way from materials such as round poles and sago palm thatch. They are beautiful, cool and comfortable. Villages range from secluded hamlets to man made ancient artificial islands in the lagoon.
While this beautiful environment and rich culture is fascinating for us as outsiders, local people face many challenges. The lack of services, such as very limited education and health, and the difficulty associated with getting to urban markets means that cash incomes are very low. Solomon Islanders aspire to improve their lives. At present they have few options and often resort to selling their resources in an unsustainable way through logging or migrating to urban shanty towns in the hope of creating a better life.