[UNDP] Solomons Government, UN Partner On Food Security Project
United Nations Development Program
Honiara, Solomon Islands
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Communities which traditionally depended on yams and taro for a staple diet have admitted switching to sweet potatoes and cassava as their farms can no longer grow the former crops.
Changes in the soil fertility brought about by the changing climate have been identified as one of the causes affecting the production of the staple traditional crops.
This was revealed by communities in the Malaita Province to visiting officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock and the “Strongem Woka long Community for Kakai” (SWoCK) project.
SWoCK is a four year project managed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock; together with the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management and Meteorology in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Two teams visited selected communities in the Lanagalanga Lagoon, North Malaita and Lau lagoon areas. One team, made up of Land Use Officers from Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock focused on some field soil testing or assessment techniques while the other was made up of researchers and informed the visiting communities about the results of a survey on farming systems conducted last year.
“Our team visited 12 gardening areas from Abalolo in the Langalanga lagoon region to Ataa in the Lau lagoon. We visited the communities’ gardening areas used over many years and noted the deteriorating state of the soil on which the people had been depending on for food security. Our team also visited gardening areas used by people living on atolls and artificial islands in the Langalanga and the Lau lagoons,” said Simon Iro Sefa, soil specialist from the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock.
Soil from more than 40 gardening plots was tested. The soil composition, suitability for crop cultivation, soil moisture content and gardening areas’ altitude were analyzed through field soil testing process.
“Through preliminary information gathered at the sites, people’s gardening areas are alkaline and just suitable for gardening of certain crops but on the mainland, especially in the northern region, soil was found to be more productive to grow a variety of crops. It was also evident in the on-site visits that people have been using their gardening areas over and over again giving it less than the recommended six months to rest,” said Mr. Sefa.
“Most of the communities visited have confirmed that they have gone away from eating yam and taro to sweet potatoes and cassava because they can no longer grow them as a result of soil unproductivity,” he said.
SWoCK’s Community Adaptation Coordinator, Charles Oloka said the findings of the soil testing, discussions with the community members as well as the results of the survey will form the basis of pilot activities that will be designed to address food security and livelihood issues.
“In the communities we visited, we saw that the land is under pressure. Changes in the soil’s nutrient content, the changing climate, continuous gardening on the same plot of land and the communities limitations to identify and plant on new land have attributed to falling soil fertility and have impacted on food security, ” said Mr. Oloka.
Mr. Oloka said the SWoCK project will work closely with the communities visited as well as those from other selected regions of Makira, Isabel, Guadalcanal and Choiseul, to improve their soil and crop production and to be resilient against the negative effects of climate change.
The project will be piloting demonstration farms, integrated farming systems, food banks and look and learn activities in the selected communities to enable selected and surrounding communities strengthen their food security.
The “Strongem Woka long Community for Kakai” (SWoCK) project is funded by the Adaptation Fund. The objective of the project is to strengthen the ability of communities in Solomon Islands to make informed decisions and manage likely climate change-drive pressures on food production and management systems. The project will run for 4 years and will benefit communities in six provinces in the Solomon Islands.