NEWLY appointed Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAL) Ethel Tebengi Frances has called for refocusing and re-strategizing in approaching agriculture development in the Solomon Islands.
Ms Frances made the call in her maiden speech to officially open the 2018 annual agriculture extension senior staff conference now underway in Honiara.
“Agriculture needs to step up, refocus and re-strategize in its approaches going forward.
“The nation’s economy base is still weak and vulnerable after emerging from the ethnic tension and number of natural disasters in the recent past.
“Logging will soon scale down operations in the country and that will further weaken the economy and increase unemployment.”
The agriculture sector however has the potential to fill in the gaps if the Ministry is wholly resourced
The Permanent Secretary told the conference it is therefore timely that we must work together to draw up an Agriculture Sector Growth Road Map to direct and guide our development ambitions going into the future.
“It is good to export and earn revenue but we also need to feed ourselves, create employment opportunities by entering into commercial agriculture thereby reducing our dependency on imported food.”
She challenged the participants not to treat the meeting just like any other sessions where they come to report on activities but urged them to constructively discuss and find ways to chat a new chapter for the agriculture sector.
The conference this week brings together all the agriculture extension heads from the provinces including Honiara city.
It is an opportunity for them to be updated on Ministerial matters and directives.
Effectively the conference is a forum where issues are raised and discussed and possible solutions found in order for the department to effectively deliver agriculture services in the rural areas.
More importantly it is also time where important stakeholders, i.e. donor partners, Private sector and NGO’s have the opportunity in giving awareness of possible partnerships that can be forged and harnessed for the betterment of our farmers in the rural areas.
Director of Agriculture Extension Services Michael Ho’ota highlighted that Agriculture continues to face challenges due to the ever changing global economy, social issues and climate change and that the extensions services requires the resources and manpower to overcome these challenges.
Ho’ota said despite the huge contribution of the agriculture sector towards the national economy the extension services and MAL for that matter continues to lag behind the other Government agencies with regards to its annual budget allocations.
He highlighted insufficient staff numbers, Lack of staff housing and office spaces, staff capacity, resources and logistic support continues to hinder effective delivery of agriculture services to our rural population.
The theme of this year’s conference is ‘Farmers for Better Future’. It is relevant seeing that farmers are the most important stakeholders and would be fitting to see more emphasis given to them, to enable them develop sustainably and profitably to ensure food security and livelihoods are improved in the rural areas.
The Director thanks the Solomon Islands Government for funding the conference. It ends Friday, August 24.