THE COVID-19 pandemic is putting the world on a crisis footing with unprecedented actions to restrict movements causing disruptions to productions affecting, amongst other things, food supply around the globe. And as countries braced themselves to protect their citizens from the deadly disease they are now faced with imminent recession and a global famine is predicted by the World Food Organisation (WFO) of the United Nation and the countries that depend on imported food are the most vulnerable. And so given the status of global food suppliers, export restrictions are unwarranted and will hurt food security in importing dependent countries.
As Solomon Island is highly depended on imported food, the Government fear the potential food shortage impacting lives of urban and rural population who depend on rice and now has as one of its priority preparations plan the production of local production food, especially root crops for this looming food shortage.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAL) therefore is taking no chances and are working very hard to ensure this country increase its local food stock with plans to invest on mass production of root crops.
Recently MAL Permanent Secretary Ethel Tebengi Frances and Undersecretary Michael Ho’ota signed an SBD 2.7 Million funding agreement with the management of SAPE Farm representative Dr Paul Bosawai Popora as the first partner to support the government with this objective.
“While funding may be an important factor, finding the right partner who can deliver is the key to achieving this government targets,” Mrs Frances said. In such times it is an important decision because we cannot afford to be making mistakes with how we as a government agency direct government investments through our people. Mrs Frances went on to explain that “the government want to ensure we have local food stock ready and so it is our duty to ensure that happens yet production is not the role of MAL; it only facilitate and support production through our people in the country”. The Permanent Secretary is very confident that Dr Paul and his team will deliver.
Dr Paul vision is to farm root crops so he can ensure we have access to local fresh food as a way of fighting Non Communicable Diseases that is killing our people every week. The Permanent Secretary said that “she was impressed with Dr Paul visions which is reflected in the amount of investment he already put into his cassava and potato farming”. Sape Farm started in 2018 and right now they have a tractor and already planted 2 hectares of cassava and 4 hectares of potatoes and had been selling to the Hospital, SINU and JQY (for his animal feed). The family has 200 hectares of registered land with 160 hectares available for cultivation.
‘Sape Farm was identified by MAL last year for support to develop their farm to commercial cassava production and discussions were along the lines of cassava production for export. With the need to increase local food stock, it is just good timing”, said Mrs Frances.
The Permanent Secretary said that supporting our own people to participate in economic activities and improve their lives and those around them is the role of the government and MAL is happy to do that on behave of the Government. The Permanent Secretary said that it is her vision to support our own Solomon Islanders who have the potential do commercial agriculture so we take control of our own economic growth.
The Support Agreement signed between MAL and Sape Farm is a supply and value add package that will ensure Sape Farm are able to do mass farming of cassava and potato, process, package, store and distribute to outlets around in Honiara and also for export. Agreement with Sape Farm also is for them to support farmers it can feasibly reach through contract farming so other family household have the chance to earn money for themselves.
The Permanent Secretary explained that funding support will cater for farming machineries and tools, processing and refrigeration machines and working capital.
Meanwhile Dr. Bosawai Popora on behalf of SAPE farm thank the government through the MAL for recognizing them through the partnership.
“I am excited indeed. This is the beginning of a milestone investment from the government through the ministry of agriculture supporting us SAPE farmers to shift from the normal subsistence farming into a more commercial way of food production.”
“I am very happy after signing this contract and very much looking forward for better results.”
Dr. Bosawai Popora highlighted that SAPE farm already have 200 hectares of registered land.
“We have committed in the contract to farm 40 hectares, 20 hectares for cassava and 20 hectares for patato but that is only for the contract. We have 160 hectares of land available for further expansions.”
The Ministry is now progressing discussions with St.Martin, Don Bosco, Tenaru and Selwyn as part of its local food production program and is hoping to sign contracts soon. The Permanent Secretary said that they are focusing on schools as partners because they each have large portion of land registered under their authorities so easier to deal with such investment now with those already have land available for mass production
The ministry is hoping to create up to 300 jobs or more through this program and will be expecting more jobs as it roll out similar program to the provinces.
Further work on meat production is being progressed as well and contracts will be signed soon.