Founded on the 5th May 1982 by Dr John Roughan and Abraham Baesanisia, the Solomon Islands Development Trust signaled a change in the positive development and livelihoods of people in the Solomon Islands. These two inspirational men wanted to create a better life for the people of the Solomon Islands. SIDT’s first leaders recognised that the nation’s strength was its people. SIDT aimed to draw in all villages, all people and the nation to create a dynamic influence in national growth. The Trust’s work plan was simple: Strong villages make for a strong nation. They believed that villages are strong when led by solid leaders, when people work together to create wealth from their own resources and when they share a vision for the future.
From the beginning John and Abraham wanted to focus on strengthening the quality of village life and not on procuring funds. Of course overseas aid money was needed to help develop the Solomon Islands, but John and Abraham wanted to set an example against corruption and redistribution of aid funds. SIDT understanding of development is that it is a ground up process and as such aid money needs to be useful in helping to increase the quality of village life.
The organisation believes in people helping themselves to improve their status and quality of life, provided they understand their own environment and themselves. SIDT originally began functioning after the Foundation for the Peoples of the South Pacific and private agencies collaborated together in helping to find funding for the new NGO. In its first two years (1982-1983) SIDT formulated a development philosophy, instituted a training program and recruited staff. Its Board of Trustees directed SIDT during its initial years to be involved in development education and awareness building, not project funding or implementation.
In the 1980’s, SIDT conducted its work through Mobile Teams, which worked in every province providing information and training for villagers. In the 1990’s SIDT changed the emphasis of its work from just information sharing to a more practical, demonstration based approach – Mobile Teams became Village Demonstration Workers and were directed to start with their own household, and their own village, gradually spreading out to other communities. In those early years, SIDT’s focus was on what it called the ‘4 criteria’ – that is, that every household would have (1) mosquito nets; (2) a raised fireplace for cooking; (3) a sup-sup garden and (4) a proper toilet.
Gradually SIDT’s work expanded from demonstrating the 4 criteria to designing and implementing projects targeting many issues that affect the people of the Solomon Islands, including logging and other environmental issues, health (malaria, HIV/AIDs, youth mental health) women’s participation, restorative justice, good governance, proposal writing, life and livelihood skills, civic education and many others. SIDT also conducts surveys and research in the Solomon Islands, including the ‘Government Report Card’ survey which finds out what ordinary Solomon Islanders think about the government’s performance.
Over the last thirty years of the organizations history SIDT has seen a shift in focus and increasing growth of the organisation. Below is a brief timeline of SIDT:
1982-1986: The Learning Years: During the first five years SIDT informed thousands of people living and working in hundreds of villages what the organisation was about. SIDT trained its village personnel and named them as ‘Mobile Team Members’. These now trained Mobile Team Members then travelled around the provinces and villages of the Solomon Islands conducting village workshops to help villagers to understand what development is. During these early years of work SIDT workers were also learning. However, merely telling people about development wasn’t enough. SIDT as an organization had to do something more and so it introduced supporting programs to the MTM’s work.
1987-1993 The Middle Years
As SIDT continued to grow they began to realise that just conducting talks and workshops at the village level was not enough. SIDT then introduced two supporting programs: print media and theatre programs. These became the major outreach tools for the organization during this The Middle Years. A monthly magazine called Link Magazine began to be published as well as yearly wall calendars which help the Mobile Management Teams to prepare their village monthly plans. Another outreach tool utilised during this time is the touring theatre teams. The drama teams toured villages and dramatised issues relating to environment, nutrition and leadership. These programs are still effective to date.
1994- 1999 The Growth Years
During the mid 1990s onwards SIDT saw the need to re-design its outreach program. One of the major changes that was implemented was moving from education and awareness to demonstration. This saw the need to change the name of the roles from ‘Mobile Team Members’ to ‘Village Demonstration workers’ (VDWs). Here the VDW then took up the approach of making development practical: better nutrition, cleaner living, healthy lifestyles and less sickness.
2000- 2006 and beyond (Setting the future)
With the serious civil unrest of these years, known as ‘The Tensions’, it became clearer that villagers are still at the core of the mission. SIDT continued to invest more into the lives of villagers by helping them to use their natural wealth to sustainably build incomes. For example, villagers becoming involved in income generating activities such as timber harvesting, seaweed farming, butterfly ranching among other self-led projects. With the introduction of three new governance programs in early 2003, SIDT helped villagers to increase participation of women, youth and elders of the community to prioritise their needs collectively and plan the future of their communities.
In all the different stages of the organization one of the outstanding values is the Village. No matter what changes the organisation has gone through it continues to value villages as the core or the heart of the organisation.
Past Projects that SIDT have focused on are:
1984- 1986 Rural Water supply and Sanitation
1987 – 1989 Disaster Awareness and Preparation
1990 – 1992 Population Awareness, Resource Management and Increasing the Quality of village life
1993 – 1995 Malaria work to prepare for AIDS Epidermic
1997 – 2001 Bednet Program to reduce malaria infection
2003 – Ongoing Peace building program (People skills, mediation and Restorative Justice)
2004 – 2007 Governance program
2007-2010 Village Save Program (VSP)
2010-2014 and beyond Bridging the Gap (AFAP)