Agents of Change: Brother Lent SSF, Solomon Islands

Brother Lent pointing to the reforested area at Hautabu

Brother Lent, an Anglican Franciscan in the Solomon Islands, was one of the first graduates of Agents of Change. On a recent trip to the Solomon Islands, Elizabeth Perry, the Anglican Alliance’s Programmes Director, caught up with Brother Lent and visited Hautabu, the site of Brother Lent’s forestry project, which he set up after completing the Agents of Change course.

Brother Lent explained that before he undertook the reforestation, “The land was just empty – grassland.” He then explained how they went about the reforestation and how it looks now.

“We surveyed the land and started cutting the grass. We marked it out – it’s a hectare (100m by 100m); then we thought about what species to plant. We decided to plant mahogany. We paid 50 Solomon Isalnd cents for each seedling and collected about 700 in case some died. The whole plot contained 680. We marked it in 5 by 3 [sections], the size needed for the trees when they are grown up.

“It’s great. The years have passed. The trees have kept well and grown up. Now the forest is back again. We can see the change. The forest brings other creatures – birds, insects, lizards, snakes, wild pigs. The forest is their house. They have their place to live. So, we help them as well. We planted a garden next to it and found it produces good crops because when the trees’ leaves drop, they make compost which mean the crops grow well.

“There are communities around. Now the trees have grown up they produce seeds. The people come and ask me, and I tell them to collect whatever seedlings they want and plant them on their land.”

Brother Lent’s passion for forests hasn’t stopped with the reforestation at Hautabu. He subsequently studied for a bachelor’s degree and wrote about the impact of logging, having seen how the loggers’ operations in the bush destroyed the land.

“After taking the Anglican Alliance’s Agents of Change course, I [was] now thinking to change the mind of the people, not to go on accepting logging but to go back to plant the land, plant back the land where logging [was]. That is the area I wrote my thesis on.”

The information in his thesis helped form the basis for the advocacy work which the Franciscans, Dominicans and Sisters of the Church have been doing about the impacts of logging in the Solomon Islands. Together, the religious brothers and sisters held community consultations and helped people see the connections between what they were experiencing (increased flooding, reduced numbers of fish and wild pigs, for example) and the logging activities. People’s mind sets changed as a result.

Brother Lent is influenced by his Franciscan spirituality. “I studied the life of Francis, seeing how Francis integrated his life with creation. I see that we are losing some areas of life where God has created the world for us; that makes me feel it isn’t right; it isn’t the way to use the resources God has given to us. If we cut one tree down, we must plant ten to replace it.”

Brother Lent also uses the first module of Agents of Change in his training of novices.  “It is important to change the minds of people with their thinking, seeing the issues around us in the country.”