NO to Sea Cucumber exportation!

Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor
On Tuesday, April 26th, during a legislative hearing regarding the planned sea-cucumber harvest in Pohnpei which many locals, including our NGOs oppose, a Pohnpeian lawyer representing the foreign company who will buy the sea-cucumbers from Pohneians, quipped, what are the NGOs contributing to Pohnpei other than creating conservation areas and putting local citizens in jail?
Firstly, only the Government has the legal mandate to create conservation areas and put people in jail and not the NGOs, and that smart Pohnpeian lawyer knows this very well. To answer the question of what the three conservation NGOs, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Micronesia Conservation Trust (MCT), and the Conservation Society of Pohnpei (CSP) do besides creating conservation areas and putting local citizens in jail, as purported by our local lawyer, let us explain some of the things that we actually do. MCT, TNC and CSP hire approximately 30 people, mostly locals, who use their salaries to support their local families, contribute to our economy, and pay taxes and our organizations also support Micronesian communities when they are in need. In doing this, our three organizations have brought millions of non-compact funding dollars into our economy, giving hundreds of grants to local communities and supporting capacity building to thousands of local community members around Micronesia. We have served so many communities that we can't mention everything we've done since the late 1990s.

But we want to share a few of our efforts during the past year with you and the people of Pohnpei and the FSM . When Chuuk and Yap were hit hard by typhoon Maysak, we contributed approximately $50,000 in grants to some of the most affected communities of those two states to help them with their recovery efforts. This year with the drought, our organizations have supplied several communities (Pakin, Sapwuafik, etc.) with water tanks and other resources and technical assistance to help them address their water security needs. We have also provided more than 10 families on Pohnpei with funds to help them with their farms, including money to help them convert their pigpens to the dry-litter system. This way, the contaminants from the pigpens will no longer pollute streams that provide water to hundreds of families. Today, these farmers are selling the compost from their dry-litter systems for $6 a bag. Some of the farmers are making around $300 per month from these new systems and their livelihoods have improved. And this year we are launching the Bill Raynor Micronesia Challenge Scholarship Fund that will provide two Micronesia students with up to $30,000 dollars each to pursue a masters degree and PhDs in the resources stewardship field. We have more projects and programs like this we can list, but we think these few examples provide some idea of how we help our local communities. We are not only helping Pohnpei state and the region with our conservation efforts, we are helping people and communities in need. The difference is that we are helping our citizens with environmentally and socially friendly solutions.
There is not a single person who works in our three organizations who is a pure environmentalist - a "greenee" or "treehugger". We are all in these roles because we are humanitarians who understand that the best way to eliminate poverty, improve quality of life, and ensure food security for the residents in Pohnpei and the rest of Micronesia is to manage our resources and add value to what the farmers and fishers produce so they make more. We want what's best for our people and not what's best for some individual or business who will leave us soon after they have gotten what they want, taking the benefits and profits from our natural resources with them when they go. Pohnpei, like the rest of Micronesia, needs to use our natural resources to improve the lives of our citizens, and not fuel these "boom and bust" schemes that only provide short term benefits to our citizens and extremely large gains to these rich individuals and their lawyers.
TNC, MCT and CSP are here now and will be here for many years to come to continue to help the people in Pohnpei and Micronesia to develop our resources while keeping our environments safe and productive for our citizens now and forever.
Our question: has this foreign company ever helped a community when it was in need? Is this company planning to stick around after all the sea-cucumbers are gone?
Finally, and ironically, while this very smart Pohnpeian lawyer is using his God-given talent to work for this foreign company, we, the NGOs are helping the Soumas of a community from his municipality to bring in a grant to help the local leadership and community members address their water security needs.
Willy Kostka, Ricky Carl and Eugene Joseph