Community Benefit Sharing Focus – History in the making

The Community Benefit Sharing Program (CBSP) is gearing up to roll out three significant programs in the first half of 2021. With its dedicated team working within the Tina River Hydropower Project, preparations have already started for a number of initiatives to provide early benefits to affected community members and to prepare for the main project benefit sharing components in later project stages. The first phase, which is happening now to coincide with the pre-construction stage, include pre-employment training, construction of a 11Kva transmission line and rural water sanitation system.

With the support of global experts guiding the team, the CBSP is experiencing positive community support as result of early engagement and extensive consultation to gain social license to proceed with the complex infrastructure development. This has been no easy feat for the team given the negative perception of hydro development in the region; a legacy of two failed hydropower projects undertaken in the 1980s and early 1990s. To combat this, in 2016 the government set out to address the situation by crafting a new national development strategy that highlighted the importance of benefit sharing and of projects that ensure positive outcomes for local communities. As a result, the Community Benefit Sharing Pilot for Tina was born to deliver on the great promise for positive development impact.

Some of the unique challenges faced and conquered by Tina in the community benefit sharing space has drawn attention to the Solomon Islands from around the world. IFC, a member of the World Bank Group and the largest global development institution focused on the private sector in emerging markets working in more than 100 countries, recently highlighted the Community Benefit Sharing Program designed for Tina as a case study in its Capturing Hydropower’s Promise Report Series.

The case study emphasised that for Tina, addressing high-priority local needs and providing up-front benefits to project-affected communities was essential to gain social license to purse the development. Among the needs identified during consultations with local stakeholders where expanded access to electricity and improved water supply. As a result, the Rural Electrification Project was born as a project-sponsored construction of distribution lines and home service connections will extend the power grid to local communities.

In addition, modernizing the water infrastructure in affected communities, including for education and health service providers operating in the area, will ensure access to a clean, reliable, and sustainable water supply was essential. Lastly, a focus on local job creation is another priority with pre-construction workforce training, with both general vocational and targeted training to build the technical skills needed for specific job functions. These early initiatives will prepare potential workers for construction employment.

Once the Hydropower facility is operational, the CBSP programs will focus more broadly on long-term community development. As a result, the extensive benefit-sharing program will reach more than 4,000 people around Tina River.