The Makira Toktok project is sponsored by South Pacific Cacao , Strong Island Foundation and Makira Gold.
The project is part of a broader vision for “enabling Makira communities” by an alliance of organisations passionate about Makira including South Pacific Cacao, Makira Gold, Strong Island Foundation, Torah WaSH and South Pacific Allied Health.
The Makira Toktok project provides a voice for the island of Makira into the national Solomon Islands agenda by raising awareness of local Makira issues, promoting tourism, conservation and sustainable economic development.
The project has been running for over 12 months, with the embedding of veteran Pacific journalist and Government media advisor George Atkin into the provincial capital of Kira Kira in January 2019. George is a local of Makira, from the village of Tawatana in Arosi 1, where his father was the tribal chief of the Aoba tribe and mother the hereditary landowner of the Amaeo tribe. He has been based in Honiara for most of his professional career where he played a significant role in the Solomon Islands and Pacific news media industry including running one of the Pacific’s first independent newspapers, the Solomon Toktok in the late 70s and early 80s. He recently wrote a short story of his recollections of that time, published here at the Griffith University Asian Insights Blog.
George also worked for the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation for many years as a reporter and radio presenter. Later he served numerous Prime Ministers of the Solomon Islands as their Press Secretary up until late 2018.
In early 2019 George was sponsored by an alliance of Makira organisations – Strong Island Foundation and Makira Gold then later South Pacific Cacao – to be based in Makira as a local journalist to write about important topics of Makira and Makira peoples for the national media. Since landing in Kira Kira in January 2019, he has written dozens of articles about Makira that have been published in national Solomon Islands newspapers. His role also involved representing the alliance in supporting key local initiatives including the Makira Banana (Huki) festival. After a 2 year absence, the festival was successfully held in October 2019 due to his significant efforts including taking on the Vice Chair-person on the organising committee.
Sustainability of the position – Through George, the Makira alliance has been discussing with the Premier of Makira-Ulawa province the possibility of co-funding George’s activities with the establishment of a new provincial Communications and Media Unit to minimise the financial burden on the alliance in the short term and also increase the local capability of promoting Makira through communications and social media activities. These discussions have been extremely positive but are considerably delayed due to the financial impacts of Coronavirus on the Solomon Islands economy and government budgets.
The alliance is now seeking financial support through a crowdfunding campaign to raise AUS $5,000 to sponsor George for 6 months to continue his communication activities until the Makira-Ulawa provincial government is in a position to progress with a co-funded program. This funding pays for George’s salary and rent in Kira Kira for the 6 months duration.
Visit this page for an extensive list of articles written by George Atkin since January 2019.
Should the project be co-funded by the Makira-Ulawa provincial government within the 6 month period, then any additional funds will be used for a new conservation project being established to protect Leatherback turtles at Waimarae beach on Makira.
Makira is a mountainous, tropical island of more than 100,000 people in the Solomon Islands surrounded by fringing coral reefs. Despite the physical beauty and friendly local peoples, it is one of the least developed parts of the Solomon Islands, with many on the island lacking access to essential health services, running clean water or toilet/handwashing facilities. Limited and expensive transport infrastructure is a major barrier to tourism and industry with the island only having a grass airstrip for air transport, no wharf for sea transport and only a single unsealed road running down one side of the island. During heavy rain which is common, only a handful of permanent bridges near the provincial capital Kira Kira are immune to flooding.