The FINANCIAL — The World Bank, acting as administrator of funds from the Japan Social Development Fund, on April 19 signed a grant agreement with the Solomon Islands Government for a US$2.8 million, Community Benefit Sharing Pilot Project.
The project will benefit more than 4000 people in the Malango and Bahomea communities of Guadalcanal, through the establishment of a new community development fund as well as investments to improve community water and electricity infrastructure, and to assist community members to gain employment with the development of planned infrastructure projects, particularly the planned Tina River Hydropower Development Project, according to the World Bank.
Land tenure and ownership remain complex issues in Solomon Islands, where approximately 87 percent of land is under customary land ownership, which can be a challenge for the development of large-scale infrastructure. This new project seeks to address this through the development of a pilot mechanism for enhancing benefits for local communities hosting infrastructure projects.
This pilot will align with the planned Tina River Hydropower Development Project – a high priority investment for the Solomon Islands Government that aims to reduce the cost of electricity while increasing its reliability and availability.
“Developing a mechanism to secure dedicated, tangible benefits for local communities is the major focus of this project,” said Guido Rurangwa, World Bank Country Representative for Solomon Islands. “Beyond that, if the benefits ensure continued community support for large infrastructure projects, this model could be replicated for other projects throughout the country and the region.”
“The signing of this grant agreement is an important first step towards enhancing benefits and opportunities for communities that will host the Tina River Hydropower Development Project,” said Hon. Bradley Tovosia, Minister of Mines, Energy and Rural Electrification. “Ensuring these communities see clear opportunities from the hydropower project will help not only these communities, but the entire nation; as the Tina River Project is a critical, nation-building project that will significantly reduce Solomon Islands’ reliance on expensive imported diesel for electricity.”
The project consists of three key components:
· The creation of a community benefit sharing fund and training for community members on the management, policies and procedures of the fund.
· The improvement of community infrastructure, particularly water supply and electricity transmission lines. Most households within the targeted communities do not have access to formal water supply or sanitation systems and none are connected to the electricity grid. Schools, clinics and population centers will be prioritized for water infrastructure and close consultation with the community will determine the location and type of water supply system.
· The project will include human resources development to assist community members access employment opportunities created by the Tina River Hydropower Project’s construction and operation.