Where we work
Our work has been in the Pacific namely in the Solomon Islands but has steadily moved to other countries with tropical coastlines like Liberia West Africa.
This stunningly beautiful archipelago of hundreds of high islands and fragile atolls is set in the Coral Sea. The population, some 600 thousand people, is relatively small, but growing fast. There are about 80 different Melanesian and Polynesian languages and dialects, but ‘Solomon’s Pidgin’ and English are the unifying languages.
The Coral Sea is aptly named since these islands embrace iconic lagoons of crystal-clear water and startlingly vivid coral gardens. Shorelines are fringed with waving coconut palms.
Here Dr Dan Etherington recalls a moment when he was challenged not to give up...
“In September 1994, I was sitting with a local man on a pile of Copra bags on Malu’u beach, North Malaita, in the Solomon Islands. We were waiting to load the motorboats plying their way to and from the coastal trading ship anchored 500 metres offshore. Working with 80 kilo bags of Copra was hard, dirty and smelly work. This raw material that is shipped overseas for processing has so little monetary value the people consider this work as a form of slavery.
I was in Malu’u conducting experiments with our new technology in the hope of helping farmers process their coconuts into high quality oil instead of making copra. We had had several major setbacks with equipment breakages and bad weather.
As I sat there wondering if all the effort was worthwhile, my gaze moved towards an obelisk standing in the shallows about 100 metres offshore. Just then the man sitting next to me turned and said in excellent English, "Tell me, Dr Dan, will we ever be free from the chains of the copra trade?”
That simple question in that specific location had a profound impact on me. The obelisk I was looking at had been erected in 1992 by the local people to mark the centenary of when and where Peter Ambuofa had landed on his release from kanaka slavery on Queensland (Australia) sugar plantations. Peter had become a Christian while in Australia. On his return he was initially rejected by his own people and persecuted vigorously, for he had changed so much from the youth who had been captured by the “blackbirder” slave-traders. But his remarkable persistence in teaching the Christian message eventually had a profound impact on his whole tribe.
At that moment I felt humbled. My difficulties were minor compared to Peter’s, but I knew in my heart I was being challenged in a quite extraordinary way to keep on with the task of removing another set of chains.”
Dr Dan Etherington