BY SAMIE WAIKORI
TRIBES within the Aluta Basin, which was once earmarked for a national oil palm project in East Malaita constituency, have shown their support for a rice project.
This was expressed by chiefs from tribes within Aluta to Member of Parliament for East Malaita constituency, who is also the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure Development, Manasseh Maelanga, and Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Rural Development, Dr Samson Viulu during a meeting at Tatali last week.
The chiefs said programmes under Aluta proposed oil palm project have gone through lots of challenges with no clear indications on the future of the project.
They said while the landowners still have interest to develop the Aluta Basin, they want dialogue with the national government on a rice project as an alternative to the oil palm project.
The chiefs said the landscape of Aluta is unquestionable; to prove it, they say few individuals have successfully farmed rice there in the past.
They assured their willingness for rice project in Aluta basin and pledged to work together to address what is required from them by national government or investors in pursuit of the project.
In addition to that, the chiefs also asked the national government for support on how they could work together to achieve that development aspiration.
The chiefs also request that such processes and failed promises experienced with the failed oil palm project be ‘not repeated’ once the rice project is approved.
Mr Viulu thanked the chiefs and landowning people of Aluta and encouraged them to work together with the national government behind the interest.
He explained that one of the reasons the oil palm project did not eventuate was environmental purposes, that oil palm industry is not allowed on lands that still maintain their forests.
On that note, Maelanga acknowledged the landowners and assured them of support as their representative to ensure their interest is brought to the national government.
He said there are farmers in the constituency who had engaged in rice farming on a small scale.
He adds that these pioneer farmers could help with their expertise if any such project is endorsed in the future by government.
Maelanga said there are investors interested in supporting the country with rice projects, and it “needs partnership from landowners and government to work towards it”.