A GROUP of farmers from within the Kirakira station have criticized the cocoa record story that was headlined on this paper on Monday.
They told the Solomon Star that the article was framed to over shadow their demand to replace the extension officer in charge at the Kirakira agriculture extension office.
“We are not happy with what is being headlined in your paper on Monday.
“There is no cocoa record being achieved and the issue with the record production of 15 tonnes of cocoa is the hard work of the small holder farmers only and not that of the Ministry through the extension office.
“The Ministry only facilitates training and identifies the market but the production part is the efforts of the small holder farmers themselves,” they told this paper.
The farmers demanded the replacement of the extension officer in charge at the Kirakira agriculture office saying that he has failed them.
“For the past years, the extension officer did not perform as expected.
“He has not made any efforts to visit the farmers in Makira besides the cocoa farmers who were grouped as a result of the Ausaid funded Cocoa Rehabilitation Project.
“The program is managed by Johnson Sunaone and nothing to do with the agriculture extension office in Kirakira,” a spokesperson for the farmers told the Solomon Star.
The farmers said right now they are confused as to what programs are offered by the office in Kirakira and they said the Director of the extension office at the headquarters here in Honiara is aware of the matter but failed to act.
However when contacted yesterday, the Director of Extension Michael Ho’ota told this paper that the matter is for the government to look into.
“The matter is not for the department to deal with but the government is responsible.
“I will not comment much on this because of the sensitivity of the issue and I will not dwell too much on it.
“Maybe such complain are raised by the farmers because of the effects on the lack of support received from the Ministry.
“As you may know, we have farmers that are not usually complaining and farmers that are always complaining,” Mr Ho’ota said.
He added that with the recent cocoa record success story, the Ministry have different programs being initiated for local farmers.
Roy Timothy, the Cash Crop Coordinator at the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock within the extension Division was contacted and he said the cocoa record was identified when he made a visit to the farmers at the province few weeks ago.
He told this paper that his visit to the province was to continue on with a Participatory Approach and Research Program implemented by the MAL to help cocoa farmers in the Province.
When interviewed last week for the same issue, the Permanent Secretary (PS) of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAL) Mr Jimmy Saelea told the Solomon Star that the complain was not received by his office in Honiara.
“Maybe, the farmers are complaining due to the many frustrations they faced because the help from the Ministry does not go down as far to reach them.
“They should understand that if they want to raise such issue, they should come and see me,” the PS said.
Mr Saelea said,the Ministry normally treats all provinces equal in terms of funding and they tried as much as possible to provide equal distribution to all farmers whether the process is slow or quick.
Attempts to reach the officer in charge of the Kirakira Agriculture extension office for comments are proved futile but this paper understands that he will be in Honiara over the weekend so an interview was arranged for next week.
By RONALD TOITO’ONA