Dear Editor – Most of Solomon Island’s rural population dependent on subsistence farming for a living and it has been encouraging to know in recent weeks how the people of Dai Island in Malaita have been taught how to grow their own vegetables and root crops using organic farming methods by the Kastom Gaden Association (KGA).
A spokesperson for the KGA has said that learning new ways of growing crops will help the communities in rural areas to improve their livelihoods
I too am keen to help rural people gain a better standard of living and proposed fish farming as a possible way to provide additional food security. I also raised the possibility of renewing rice cultivation and finding Japanese markets for locally made handicrafts.
In my last article to your newspaper, I queried the current state of the local cocoa industry as I see potential investors wanting to know more of such a high demand commodity.
In this piece I would like to highlight honey production and banana growing as potential sources of income for the rural people.
Some research that I have read indicates that there is still beekeeping being done on a small scale with a few beekeepers owning 50 plus hives but most with 25 or less. Honey yields of around 25kg/hive/year have been achieved.
The local honey is dark with high moisture content.
Prices range from S$6 to $20 a jar and sales made locally and exported, including purchases by Japanese fishing boat crews.
Village people make the frames and boxes to house the bees themselves using local timber.
There is shortage however of hive tools smokers and veils but these are not expensive items of equipment and worth acquiring if the bee keeping industry is to revive.
In 2003 the small scale bee keeping industry suffered something of a set back with the introduction to the Solomon Islands of the Asian honey bee (Apiscerana) and this prompted the Australian Centre of International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) to undertake a project to develop management strategies in the Solomon Islands to control the best which was attacking the European bees and causing losses in their honey yields.
As the Australian led project commenced in 2003 it is hoped that some helpful assistance has been forthcoming to have developed management approaches that has enabled the continuation of the local apiary industry and allow village people to earn some extra money.
Here in Thailand I am always looking for ways I could recommend as being helpful to the Solomon’s rural poor. One interesting and enterprising village project I discovered just a week ago involved the use of bananas.
Slow oven dried bananas coated with a honey glaze. Delicious! They’ve packaged them in little foil wrappers too, so you can drop a small banana treat into you children’s lunch box, or take them on picnics. They don’t taste that sweet, they have the sort of slow release complex sugars that fruit and honey has.
I was at the government complex in Bangkok, a huge building, like a huge shopping mall, with offices for many government departments. In the central square they had a trade show on from OTOP (Which I have mentioned before)… OTOP stands for ‘One-Tambon-One-Product’, it’s a government initiative to promote one hand crafted product from each town. These bananas were the product from Tak, a town and province in Northern Thailand.
The Solomon Islands has plentiful supplies of bananas so why not consider drying the fruit and finding a market for the nutritious, beneficial product?