Solomon Islands is a young nation, and its population is young: the median age is under nineteen. This situation age will remain for some time because our population has been growing at high rates.
The nation contains several thousand islands— only a few hundred of which are inhabited — stretching over more than 2,000 kilometers from west to east, inside an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) that is nearly 50 times the size of our islands. Our islands contain more than 70 languages. Our geography and languages add more challenges to our work.
The Earth is changing—it is getting warmer; sea levels are expected to rise and forever change our lives and livelihoods. The world is also changing in its growing recognition of the need for interaction on the global environment and economy, on food and employment, on water and energy, etc. Solomons, although at the periphery of the world stage, is also experiencing these and more immediate changes.
Progress on our “Millennium Development Goals” (MDGs) has been slow, and most targets will not be met on time. Notable progress has been made towards MDG 3 for gender parity in primary secondary and tertiary education: Primary education enrollment, although increa sed, will fall short of target unless efforts are increased. Solomon Islands appears to be on track to meet only the MDGs related to Under-5 mortality rate, Infant Mortality Rate and to HIV & TB.
Traditional resource management is changing: Although an original land owners may retain ownership rights over a block of land and trees, s/he is increasingly not consulted regarding the planting and other uses of the land: the children often exercise e! ective control over the property they were given to use. When the cash economy is (or appears to be) involved, this change in control is resulting in increased land con6 icts. Moreover, population growth means that there are two or three mouths to feed or pairs of hands to work the land where a generation ago there was only one. This increases pressure on natural resources.
Moving to cash-related resources. The Solomons’ traditional economy is still knitted by ties of kinship, reciprocal giving, shared work, and some specialised skills in exploiting natural resources that were collectively controlled. The resource base for the family has changed signi" cantly since World War II. More individuals have access to cash jobs. There are also many more stores in or near villages that buy local produce, providing a supplementary cash income for some. The consequences of increased access to money are evident everywhere. Those who earn a cash income are entitled to dispose of it as they wish, but with the expectation that they will share some of their money with others in the extended family group. However, money can be hidden from public knowledge (unlike traditional wealth).
Food resources. In the past, food, the traditional ‘ice breaker’ for socialisation, was distribu ted between all members of a family and the others who lived in their area. This situation is disappearing as food is prepared by each smaller household. One reason given for this decline is that much of today’s food o$ en has a money cost—it is imported or bought from the market: People seem to feel that foods they have bought are more properly theirs than the fruit of the land, which they will share more readily.