|National Project Manager
|Solomon Islands Ridge to Reef Project
|Honiara, Solomon Islands
Tell us a little bit about yourself:
Hello am Sammy Airahui, I grew up in a Tawaimare village in Malaita province. Not only that but growing up in Honiara town where parents live and work is not that easy. I am the eldest son of 5 siblings and I am 34 years old. Going through formal education in Honiara town was a dream of every child, that’s what my passion was. Not until I reached Form 6 that I failed to proceed on to Form 7. My dreams were shuttered and thought of going back to the village to involve in gardening, farming and other fishery activities. Going back to the village I noticed that logging operations has caused many social issues and as well as environmental issues in our community. Although we have proper village structure in place, youths and licensees don’t have respect for our village chiefs and elders. This was when I have a passion again to go further in my education career. Although my parents were struggling, I have to go back to town and seek partime jobs to earn money for my school fees. Hence, my parents were supportive that they encourage me to go through the University of the South Pacific through distance flexible learning mode.
How has it influenced what you do?
Going back to the Tawaimare village to enjoy life as a village boy was an experience that one really looking forward to where you can enjoy the mighty forest doing hunting, trekking, hiking, snorkelling or diving the underwater world. However, what left was tiny forest, bare land, dirty streams, damaged mangroves and oil spillage into the marine ecosystem. This is where my interest stared to save the natural environment.
Having thought and acquiring basic environmental knowledge at high schools, have guaranteed me to speak and educate our village elders and chiefs that logging will cause many problems to our communities and other communities nearby. Every evening, I went to each household and share few thoughts and get people’s view on the logging operations. My passion for protecting our natural forests, environment, and marine ecosystem grew and gain support to minimize and stop logging activities in our land in years to come. With that strong passion in my heart, I pursue on to become an environmentalist in our village, having a vision to protect our natural forests, environment, and marine ecosystem. After striving for 5 years at USP DFL in Honiara, I was fortunate to be sponsored by Solomon Islands government for scholarship to do Environmental Studies, which I have successfully graduated with Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies in 2012. Having that passion in me, I went back to our village and pursue to educate my community on the impacts of logging and how we can protect our once damaged environment and restore our degraded environment through the idea of working towards conservation strategy through the ridge to reef approach locally.
Currently, I am the National Project Manager for the Solomon Islands Ridge to Reef Project. The project aims to develop integrated approach (Linkages/Connection) to water resource and coastal management in Solomon Islands. This means to protect the watershed catchment inland down to the estuary. Over the past 4 years I have collaboratively work with different stakeholders to try and restore the Mataniko River Catchment Area through cross-sectoral coordination in the planning and management of freshwater use, sanitation and pollution control, sustainable land use, biodiversity conservation, hazard risk reduction, and climate change.
What are your hobbies or passion?
My hobbies include physical
My hobbies include physical activity such as volleyball, soccer, basketball and to maintain wellness and health. Besides that, I am an avid photographer. I picked up this hobby only a couple of years ago, so it’s relatively fresh. It started when I bought a new phone. The phone camera was spectacular and I wanted to capture everything about the beauty of natural environment through that lens. I started uploading some of these photographs on Facebook and people seemed to really like them. This encouraged me to spend more time on gaining basic photography skills like framing and light. My passion is to protect the environment and restore degraded environment through planning and proper management of the watershed uphill down to the ocean. People ask me how I can work for a big commercial firm when I care so much about the environment. The truth is I'm an environmental pragmatist at heart who believes strongly in having good regulatory frameworks that protect the environment but also encourages sustainable development.
Why did you become involved in Ridge to Reef?
I get involve with ridge to reef because I want to reach out and share the appropriate knowledge to communities that have similar experiences like my community. I ensure there are good governance in communities through well set up structure where people, projects, donors can easily work with in communities. I want to tell success stories of Mataniko River Catchment to other communities.
As a national project manager, I manage to team up with other local experts that provide solutions to environmental problems to help our clients reduce the detrimental impact of industrial, commercial and government initiatives on the environment, dealing with environmental issues such as water pollution, air quality, and soil contamination. As a project manager, I have good problem-solving skills needed to investigate environmental problems and develop appropriate solutions through sectoral cross planning and provide sustainable actions.
What have been your key contributions?
I have involved more with communities that live along the catchment area of Mataniko River through activities implemented such as:
- The water quality monthly monitoring has been carried out on monthly basis. Data were collected and compiled by the national project manager/Cefas Volunteer.
- The IWR2R project through the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management & Meteorology (MECDM) together with the Ministry of Fisheries, JICA, Ministry of Forestry, Honiara City Council, Mataniko River Catchment community reps and other stakeholders have plant 200 seedlings along the Mataniko River Catchment and at the Ranadi, also rubbish and garbage collection have been done throughout Honiara in 2019.
- Hiring of Local Consultant groups for Honiara Coastal Baseline Assessment & Mataniko River Catchment Integrated Watershed Management Plan.
- Organize a clean-up campaign with other national stakeholders and the general public were able to carry out a clean-up campaign activity at the Mataniko River.
What have been your key learnings?
- Managing key activities to be delivered on time despite COVID-19 pandemic and national restriction. We manage to do them through digital platform.
- I have learn more about my capabilities and ability to stretch myself in a project like this R2R.
- To be a good leader, it is critical that you have space and time and to listen to different people and stakeholder groups to ensure we can all work effectively together;
- Being a national project manager, building connections with people is valuable. Ask questions, listen to people’s opinions and stories, use my own strengths to help them with their community projects helps a lot in the implementation of project activities.
- Being open minded, and listen every time to your co-workers, leaders and think critically;
- Focusing on strengths more than weakness. Realizing where my strengths and passions lie enables me to set concrete goals in my professional life and gives me an actionable plan to achieve them.
How will these experiences help you or provide opportunities for you/your community/your country in the future?
As a leader, I have passion to serve and love to listen to people. Communicating across different sectors have enable me to successfully achieving project outcomes/milestones. I believe that effectively keeping my supervisors well-informed about the activities I am driving and the progress that am making, along with my team. The R2R project has taught me a lot in developing my communicating skills, management skills, critical thinking skills, problem-solving skills, team-work skills, and leadership skills to name a few.
Having engaged in project like the R2R, it has enable me to work in my own community applying the same concept of R2R thereafter and fully utilizing the same knowledge and successful stories of R2R will contribute in sustainable development of Solomon Islands.
To make sure a project moves in the right direction and produces the desired deliverables, I have to be creative. I was lucky enough to have stakeholders who support by taking a creative approach to things. It often led to situations when I got to try something new. I didn’t like every activity I tried, but I now enjoy some new things I might not have discovered otherwise. So keep trying, keep experimenting, and be open to different approaches.
What is a key message you would like to share on the importance of Ridge to Reef for people know?
Ridge to Reef approach has enable communities to protect and manage waters from Source to Sea - Healthy and well-managed river basins and coastal areas where people and nature thrived. The R2R approach aims to protect, demonstrate sustainable approaches, and provide better economic understanding of the links between salt and freshwater ecosystems.
Ridge to Reef approach has ensure that biodiversity and ecosystems functions within and around marine ecosystems in Solomon Islands are better protected from threats through the adoption of an integrated “Ridge to Reef” approach that increases PA management effectiveness and applies targeted sustainable land (and coastal sea) management practices, while ensuring ecosystems resilience to climate change.
Being involved through community consultation for the past 4 years of R2R project I realise that communities need to be involved for the R2R approach to work effectively, because of the inter-connectivity of our social and natural environments. Finally, the R2R approach supports locally driven solutions and mobilizes communities to take local action that collectively have global benefits and be active participants in local level decisions related to their environment and part of a community to cabinet policy making process.