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Vanuatu

Mantantas and Sara Villages

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Conservation benefit: Protection of a 6,735-acre forest reserve

Community benefit: New community center

Date Approved: 01.2005

Forest

This project protects forest, preventing the release of greenhouse gases and reducing erosion that damages coastal and ocean ecosystems.

Vanuatu, formerly called New Hebrides, is an island nation located west of Fiji in the South Pacific. Espiritu Santo is Vanuatu’s largest island.

The largest remaining forest on the plains of Vanuatu is the 6,735-acre Vatthe Conservation Area. The local villages are willing to protect the area for another 20 years. In exchange, Seacology is providing funding for construction of a much-needed community center.

Project Updates

December 2009

Kevin Tari reports that as of October, cement, stone, sand, and timber had been transported to the site to be used in repairing the water tank. Work is now nearing completion with the ground well. Wooden poles for fencing and wire were fixed to keep out cows, and a new plaque has been sent to replace the current pitted one.

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June 2008

As of April 2008 the conservation area remains intact in spite of a brief community consideration in 2007 to revoke the conservation agreement to sell logging rights to pay for lawyer fees over disputed land claims. No bids were retrieved by the communities and in early 2008 Sara and Matantas communities were reported as working together to resolve the disputed land claims. The community hall remains in good condition overall, but may need maintenance in the near future to stabilize cracks caused by an earthquake as well as an upgrade to the water supply system.

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June 2006

Vanuatu Field Representative Kevin Tari reports that the communities are using the hall for meetings and workshops. However, there is currently a crisis regarding the status of the Vatthe Conservation Area involving a land claimant within the conservation area who was denied ownership in the Supreme Court of Appeals in 2002 but who successfully filed for compensation for coconut trees located on his former land. Local conservation NGO Santo Wan Tok Environment Center (WTEC), who has worked together with the Vanuatu Environment Unit to successfully offset the financial burden of the majority of the claim, has expressed concern that village leaders are now proposing to log some hardwood trees in the “garden” zone of the reserve to make up for the shortfall. While such action does not directly contravene the management plan rules, WTEC staff believes that it poses a threat to the biological integrity of the area and is inconsistent with the project’s conservation rationale. Seacology staff will continue to monitor the situation.

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October 2005

Seacology visited Espiritu Santo the second week of October, when the organization made an expedition to the Solomon Islands. Executive Director Duane Silverstein, Seacology Field Representative for Polynesia, and a friend of Seacology made a side trip to Vanuatu to specifically view the project. Many villagers turned out for this wonderful occasion to officially open the Seacology-funded community center.

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July 2005

Materials were purchased in April 2005, and construction of the community center is underway.

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