As they say in Marovo: "Those who cannot name the good things of sea and land, cannot find them, and therefore cannot eat or otherwise benefit from them, nor will they know how to look after them well".
Marovo Lagoon is an area of coral reefs and small islands that is part of Solomon Islands, a Melanesian country in the south Pacific (See map). Its name derives from Marovo Island, one of the first localities where European traders and navigators made regular friendly contact with local peoples in the early 19th century. The people of Marovo traditionally make their living by fishing, collecting shells and doing small-scale agriculture, although today they are also involved in logging and tourism. The current population numbers some 12,000 individuals.
The people of Marovo do not conceive of Nature as something separate from themselves. Rather, they point out that their unique 'lifestyle' (kino) does not just depend on, but more directly derives from, all the 'good things of land and sea' and the continuous engagement of men, women and children with these things. This encyclopedia, based entirely upon local knowledge of the environment, compiles the names and associated stories for some 350 fishes, 450 plants, 100 shells, 80 birds, 80 distinct topographical features of coral reef, sea and coast - and more. Written first and foremost for the use of the Marovo people, many wise elders of the villages and other local experts on reef and rainforest have provided, checked, verified and expanded the names and stories contained in this book.
In addition to describing the plants and animals that make up the lagoon environment, Reef and Rainforest proposes a voyage of discovery into the lives of the Marovo people. The author depicts their daily preoccupations in this complex environment, including their use and management of natural resources, and their role as keepers of these resources, as the traditional owners of clan-based territories on land and sea.
This bilingual encyclopedia is written in both the Marovo and English languages. The English introduction provides an overview of the people and environment of Marovo Lagoon. The organization of the following ten chapters on the physical environment and its living inhabitants follow a Marovo logic and worldview. The volume is completed with four indexes. The first two indexes cross-reference Marovo entries to equivalent (or approximately equivalent) scientific taxonomic terms, and vice-versa. There are two additional indexes that provide correspondence between Marovo and the neighbouring languages of Hoava and Vangunu, thus offering speakers of these languages access to the encyclopedia's contents.
It is hoped that the volume will support the transmission of indigenous knowledge and worldviews from elders to youth, and encourage similar efforts in the Pacific and elsewhere, to maintain the dynamism of indigenous environmental knowledge in local communities. This book is distributed for free to schools and libraries in Solomon Islands.
Hviding, Edvard, 2005, Reef and Rainforest: an Environmental Encyclopedia of Marovo Lagoon, Solomon Islands / Kiladi oro vivineidi ria tingitonga pa idere oro pa goana pa Marovo. Knowledges of Nature 1, UNESCO: Paris, 252 pp.
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