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Conservation benefit: 308-acre forest reserve as a no-take area in perpetuity

Community benefit: Youth development and education center

Date Approved: 02.2014


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

For approximately 2000 years, the people of Awak have lived on, cultivated, and managed the lands in the Awak River Basin, as well as the important forest area above the basin. They developed a highly complex and ecofriendly agroforestry system. That system has kept the area intact and provides clean drinking water to the community that lives below. Traditionally, farming was not allowed above the Awak waterfall.

In recent years, however, community members have begun to grow sakau (a root beverage with mild narcotic properties) above the waterfall. An increase in demand for sakau has put pressure on Pohnpei’s upland forests. The Awak Youth and Traditional Leaders see the need to stop sakau planting by declaring the area above the waterfall area as part of the Pohnpei Watershed Forest Reserve.

Working with the Conservation Society of Pohnpei, the community is setting aside the 308-acre Awak Valley Important Watershed Conservation Area. In exchange, Seacology is funding the refurbishment of an existing building into a community and youth center. The community will use the building for workshops on watershed management, aquaculture, and other sustainable livelihood opportunities. The center will also serve as a tutoring and research center for students who need help and mentoring.

Project Updates

January 2016

The community center has been completed and was formally opened by the governor of Pohnpei on December 13, 2015. The Awak Youth Organization (AYO) is continuing its awareness-raising activities aimed at preventing further deforestation of the watershed conservation area.

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May 2015

The Awak Youth Organization (AYO) is continuing is awareness-raising activities aimed at preventing any further deforestation of the watershed conservation area. There is good support to completely stop the planting of sakau (kava) and any other crops in the designated traditional watershed reserve, as announced by the five local chiefs last year. In the coming months, AYO will extend this work to neighboring communities including Luhke, Lipwour, Nan Uh, Saladak, and Rohi.

Construction of the youth/community center was delayed when heavy January rains made it necessary to postpone pouring the roof, which then took a month to cure. The building is nearing completion; flooring is the only major work left to do. In April, the AYO and its partners estimated that the team would soon finish installing the windows, doors, and tiling; they expect the building to be finished by the end of May.

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January 2015

The five local chiefs have announced that there will be no new agricultural activity in the areas designated for protection, and the five sakau (kava) farmers who used the areas have been made aware of this. Legislation is being proposed to formally include the area as part of the Pohnpei Watershed Forest Reserve. The Awak River Protection and Community Beautification Projects, which were spurred by the Seacology support and funded with grants from the GEF-Small Grants Program and the Global Green Grants, have also begun. The 26 piggeries that are contaminating the river with E. coli are being converted to a dry-litter system, and roadside and shoreline cleanups are regularly taking place. Construction of the youth center is well on its way and will be completed by March 2015.

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