If rainforest communities are to withstand climate threats and protect their trees, they need to be empowered to do so.
Around the tropics, this means different things. To the community of Sololo, it means education.
Cool Earth’s partners in Milne Bay on the south-east coast of Papua New Guinea are guardians of a unique ecosystem of rainforest, mangroves, and peat-rich soil. But with 95% of adults still illiterate in Sololo, accessing education and breaking the cycle of poverty needs to be a priority before any effective conservation can take place.
It’s no secret that rainforest communities are often overlooked at national level and access to a good education is simply too costly or too far away. As such, illiteracy is not simply the inability to read and write, it’s the inability to fulfil a person’s potential.
In spring, a temporary school was constructed in Sololo and is now home to the community’s first adult literacy programme. This cohort of students have already shown that access to education has huge potential. It’s opening the door to opportunities previously out of reach to rainforest communities like Sololo.
Next up, Cool Earth is working with the community on an application for the centre to become a permanent school, with two local people being trained as future teachers, helping to keep skills in the village. And the best bit, if successful, is that the building could become a designated national school funded by the government, keeping education top of the curriculum long after Cool Earth has gone.
Working with local organisation Community Service Consultancy (CSC), in-country Project Manager Gellie Akui and Project Coordinator Ricky Imanakuan have developed a literacy programme that covers reading, writing, basic numeracy and speaking Tok Pisin and English with confidence.
“We want to give people the skills so that they can generate income and not go into destroying the forest for palm oil and logging to get money.” – Gellie Akui, Cool Earth Project Manager, Papua New Guinea
With their exams newly passed, fourteen students are already looking to take part in further training. From sewing and cooking, carpentry to teaching, the community is bustling with ideas and plans for the future. Education can change lives.
These adults will be able to seek a broader range of employment, manage their own businesses and be further involved in sustainable community decisions that protect their rainforest.