Kabutaulaka, Tarcisius Tara
This study discusses the nature of power relations in the Solomon Islands logging industry. It examines how stakeholders struggle for control of the industry, and how that influences logging outcomes.In particular,the study examines howthe contestation for control between stakeholders affects the participation of indigenous landowners and the nature of their benefit from the industry.It shows that the ownership of a huge percentage of the country's forest land does not guarantee control...[Show more] of the logging industry. This is because of the relative nature of power relations and the complexity of both internal and external factors that influence the ability of a particular stakeholder to exercise power.
The role of landowners is important given that more than 80 per cent of forest land in Solomon Islands is customary-owned and indigenous landowners have either influenced,or have the potential to influence,the logging industry in a significant way.The industry has had an immense impact on the country's economic, social and political landscapes over the past two decades, and had both negative and positive impacts on the lives of many Solomon Islanders.
The involvement of foreign compames,the weakness of state policies and administration,the lack of political will to make changes, the role of non-government organisations (NGOs), and the involvement of foreign governments and international aid agencies have all contributed to the political, economic and environmental legacies of the Solomon Islands logging industry in the past two decades.
It is often argued that Solomon Islanders are not benefiting as they should from the industry. Proponents of this argument usually assert that if there is an increased landowner participation in the logging industry,there would be better outcomes. The term 'better outcomes' is often used to refer to good environmental practices and greater economic returns for landowners and the country in general. However,while it is true that landowners should participate meaningfully, the study shows that because of the continuous struggle for control-both within landowning groups and between Them and other stakeholders-landowner participation may not necessarily produce better outcomes.
Further,the nature of power relations is such that it is not possible(and indeed not desirable) for one particular stakeholder to have control over the logging industry.Different stakeholders may have power over certain aspects of the industry and not others.While landowners, for example, have control over land,they often do not have access to nor control of financial and technological capital, or the making of policies and legislation. The study argues that the ability of stakeholders to exercise control over the industry is determined by both internal and external factors.
While this study deals specifically with logging in Solomon Islands, the experiences outlined here may contribute to an understanding of the politics of land-based natural resource development in general.
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