People first must be our focus: Saelea

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MAL PS Jimi Saelea opening the DAPLU conference
MAL PS Jimi Saelea opening the DAPLU conference

ALL government programmes must be targeted towards “People First” says Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAL) Jimi Saelea.

Saelea was speaking at the opening of the 2017 Agriculture Planning and Land Use senior staff conference now underway at Ginger beach retreat, West Guadalcanal.

“People First, must be the focus for all government programmes.

“Any programme that is not people centred especially around rural people are not addressing government priorities.”

The theme of the conference is “Pioneering effective deliberation for enriched and operational agriculture production”. It reflects the need to enhance and operationalise agriculture production.

The weeklong conference brings together planning officers from all the provinces including Honiara, partners and stakeholders.

“The challenge for agriculture planners is to ensure that both national and provincial agriculture development policies and activities are implemented transparently and prudently so that rural farming families can benefit while at the same time tangible economic growth is felt as a result of good policies,” Saelea told the participants.

He highlighted that so many challenges need attention from all stakeholders, including how to grow the rural economy, how to create jobs to reduce unemployment, as well as ensuring access to better living standards.

Saelea said as the country seeks to promote more agricultural products for export, the need to coordinate production and marketing will certainly require line ministries working together to expedite this intention.

“Critical market infrastructure must be established to facilitate trade. Production modalities that are cost effective must be developed to produce the quality and quantity of products the market demands.

‘It is therefore vital that the Planning Division take a leading role in the marketing of agriculture products, linking production to markets is the way forward for the agriculture sector to enhance production as markets will be accessible to farmers.”

While reiterating the urgent need for additional manpower for the Planning division the Permanent Secretary also echoed his satisfaction on the progress of two very important programmes facilitated and implemented by them.

“The cocoa and coconut industries are fundamental for livelihoods of many rural families.

“The Ministry therefore has an obligation to ensure whatever assistance the government provides to these two sub-sectors, reached the rural farmers or targeted beneficiaries,” Saelea said.

He also acknowledged the department’s part in the initiation of, and the National Statistics office for spear-heading the National Agriculture Census (survey) programme now already underway, saying information captured from the survey is vital for decision makers in the development of the agriculture sector, more so for rural development.

The PS said Agriculture Planning has an important role to play in stimulating and instigating agricultural development in the rural areas but MAL is just but one player in the sector therefore collaborations and partnerships must be encouraged with other stakeholders.

“A whole of nation approach should be the way forward for us to deliver services to our people.”

The meeting ends on Friday, September 22.

–MAL PRESS