Name:  Francis Mamou
Solomon Islands
Location: Marau Sound, Guadalcanal

Francis Mamou shines almost alone with his ability to exert some influence over his Hanua’asuasu tribe of Marapa and Niu islands in Marau Sound on the southeastern tip of Guadalcanal. His boldness and courage in communicating items of tribal importance is a quality Mr. Mamou possesses that most of his tribespeople can only aspire to attain. His formal education to third form level is one major asset that he has – only a small portion of the community has surpassed this educational achievement. In addition to the core subjects taught in schools, Francis has also tried his hands at carpentry, plumbing and basic motor mechanics, making him very handy for village undertakings. For all this he has earned respect. He has been part of various larger Marau community committees, like the Marau Parish Council, Marau Health Clinic Committee, and Marau School Committee (where he was once a chairperson). He has been the Marapa/Niu representative and community facilitator with the World Vision in constructing village latrines within the larger Marau community.

In addition, Francis has reserved powers to make community announcements after church services. But like his tribespeople, he is a fisher himself, catching fish to provide for his family. He has tried all the known fishing methods put to use in his community, and his skill has made him one of the better fishers of his tribe. But things have been different for Francis lately. As a fisher depending on the surrounding waters for his subsistence use as well as for occasionally earning a few dollars to support his family’s and sometimes his community’s obligations, he came upon advocacy work for sustainable use of resources. Francis quickly tried to comprehend the essence of the messages being conveyed. It did not take him long. After all, despite his skill as a fisher, the competitive nature of resource extraction given the increases in population and other factors, he too has been enduring difficulties in his catches. He was transformed!

Ever since first being introduced to marine conservation work, Francis has been heavily involved, using his abilities not only to think sustainability but to act. This has catapulted him to becoming the community adviser on activities regarding the protected area. He participates in meetings and workshops and goes house-to-house relaying outcomes from the protected area and expanding his people’s visions of a sustainably managed marine environment for future benefits. He has been involved in both biological and socioeconomic surveys and even started forecasting outcomes of these surveys to substantiate his convictions of the dire need to manage resources properly if they are to be sustainable.

Francis has encountered some difficulties in carrying out his advisory role. Not everyone sees things the way he does, and oftentimes there are differences in opinion. To address these, he uses his newly acquired skills in conflict resolution. With a strong cultural heritage as a foundation for him and his Hanua’asuasu tribespeople, Francis sees these difficulties not as problems but as challenges. He appreciates that such differences will not entirely be absent and anticipates that over time, as his people begin to see the positive impacts that conservation has on resources, these challenges will be reduced drastically.

Photo by Hugo Tafea