Honiara 3 May 2015
With 80 percent of the population living in the rural areas of the Solomon Islands and largely dependent on traditional subsistence farming methods, it has been my aim in recent weeks to focus on alternative sources of obtaining income and to provide added food security.
A broad definition of well-being encompasses three areas: health, education and income.
Income generating options would include fish farming, such as milk fish, bee keeping and honey production, coconut oil production, cocoa growing, the harvesting of seaweed and, on a larger scale biofuel production.
Without an adequate income health and education suffer.
I have been pleased to read most recently of a proposal to revive the bee keeping industry and now I understand the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources has assisted seaweed farmers in the Lau/Mbaelelea constituency on North Malaita by proving them with nets, plastics and ropes. All these items will aid the farmers in managing their seaweed project and, of course, provide them with a source of income.
One area that I have not touched upon is organic food production but given the effects of climate change which as seen the extensive flooding of food gardens in some areas of the country and left degraded soil it is something that I consider needs to be looked into.
There already exists a role model to follow if one looks at the livelihood of the Kwai Island community off the East Coast of Malaita.
In 2010 the Kwai Island community started to address food and nutritional security, despite purely sandy soil, by cultivating a wide variety of vegetable and fruit crops using organic farming methods.
The then Solomon Islands Government sanctioned, in Cabinet, an Organic Agricultural Systems and if one reads the policy the recommendations and methods outlined provided for substantial food security by 2015. I am left wondering what happened because as far as I can judge it is only the Kwai Island community that continues to benefit from organic farming methods. I would, however, like to be corrected and know to what extend the government’s organic agricultural systems are in practice.
I am aware that there has been some collaboration with the International Food and Agriculture Department (IFAD) on developing innovative schemes in selected poor rural communities in the Solomon Islands and the Solomon Islands Rural Development Programme (SIRDP) is aided by the World Bank, the European Community (EU) and AuAID.
With climate change having a major impact on the traditional farming methods and practices of the rural poor to what extent is the IFAD, the EU and AuAID now focusing, if at all, to encouraging innovative organic farming methods to combat the flooding of food gardens and the destruction of fruit and vegetable crops?