Solomon Islands is part of the East Melanesian Islands biodiversity hotspot, a bioregion in Melanesia notable for its unique flora and fauna and species richness. The sustainable use of biodiversity and improving protected area management are key priorities for the government of Solomon Islands. A virtually-delivered national training for protected area stakeholders was successfully completed for the Solomon Islands in October 2020. The training was co-organised and implemented by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and the Solomon Islands’ Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management and Meteorology (MECDM). The training provided participants with the basic competences and knowledge to navigate and use the tools and features of the Pacific Islands Protected Area Portal (PIPAP). The participants gained practical skills in utilising free, open-source GIS software to improve mapping of protected and conserved areas.
“The training will assist us to make better use of the PIPAP - the information and resource platform and tool for Pacific protected areas and conservation areas. Furthermore, the skills acquired will enable improved mapping of the boundaries and other important features of our protected and conserved areas, which would inform better planning and management of these areas in the long term” Said Ms. Agnetha Vave-Karamui, Chief Conservation Officer, Environment and Conservation Division, MECDM. “One gap we realised during the training was the need to conduct a thorough review of our protected area data available at the global level through the World Database on Protected Areas. As the next step from this training, we welcome further assistance from SPREP through the BIOPAMA programme to undertake and complete this timely review. It is quite important that this information accurately reflects the efforts of our communities, partners and Government in resource management and conservation.”
A real-time demonstration of the tools and features of the PIPAP was complemented by hands-on exercises where participants learned how to access and view their country data, conduct basic and advanced searches for information, create and submit initial boundaries and supporting descriptive information for proposed protected and conserved areas and how to locate tools and technical guidance on different aspects of protected and conserved area management available through the portal. The session’s main goal was to promote the PIPAP and encourage the interest of participants in using the portal as a preferred information source to assist various facets of their daily work. The GIS component of the training covered the basic concepts and best practice of GIS and provided participants’ with practical skills in the use of the QGIS software, capturing spatial data out in the field using handheld global positioning system (GPS) units and importing field data back into QGIS to produce basic site maps with a title, scale, descriptive labels and clear boundaries. Furthermore, participants were introduced to the OpenStreetMap project.
This free and open-source spatial data is now available to Pacific users on the Pacific Environment Portal. ‘’The virtual training went very well this week, the participants were engaging and active and internet connectivity didn’t let us down. I am particularly thankful that even with the continuing COVID19 situation we have been able to assist Solomon Islands to address this priority capacity need. We’ll be providing follow up technical support to stakeholders as required in the coming months, including specific assistance on the next steps arising from the training.” said Mr Vainuupo Jungblut Protected Areas Officer, SPREP. The virtual training on the Pacific Islands Protected Area Portal (PIPAP) and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for improved protected area planning and management in the Solomon Islands was held from 19-23 October and funded through the BIOPAMA Programme, an initiative of the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States financed by the European Union 11th European Development Fund. The training was conducted by SPREP in its capacity as the BIOPAMA regional resource and data hub for the Pacific, fulfilling its role to deliver capacity building initiatives and training programmes in the use of BIOPAMA supported tools and services.