04 September 2020
Western Province Agriculture officer John Kepa. [Photo: Ulutah Gina]

COMMUNITIES in the far Western border of Shortland Islands are currently experiencing food shortage due to the closure of the Western border caused by COVID-19.

This was discovered by a team from the Western Provincial Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock during their visit last week to the Shortland Islands.

Speaking to the paper an interview on Thursday, Principal Field Officer John Kepas stated that the challenge faced by the villagers is the lack of food from the garden because most of the people no longer make gardens due to the threat from wild pigs.

“This has been a common practise for many years after wild pigs usually destroy their gardens which force families to do away with gardening,’’ he said.

He added since then most of the people have turned to fish and usually sell their catch across the border in Bougainville especially at Buin smaller markets and far as Arawa to each money and pay for their food.

“That's where they earn their money to support their families,” he said.

Usually when they return from the market would buy food from shops and the local vegetable markets before returning to their various villages in Shortlands, he added.

Mr. Kepas added that now that the border has been closed due to the COVID-19 the situation is very difficult and challenging for many families because food is running out and they no longer earn an income.

“Although the land is available for gardening wild pigs remains a threat,” he added.

He added in order for someone to make a garden a fence needs to be erected to protect the garden.

“So its a challenge for the communities,’’ he said. 

He said the agriculture team is trying to support the communities by teaching and encouraging them on how to construct backyard gardens to grow their own roots and vegetables.

During the four months state of public emergency, his officers will be there to assist the communities.

Mr. Kepa said they are waiting for funding support from the mother ministry to engage in the project.

Movement at the western border has been restricted due to the state of public emergency declared for that region. 

The border is currently being manned by members of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF).

Last week two men from Bougainville were apprehended by local police while on a fishing trip into the Solomon Islands.

They were released on Saturday.

As of this week, it had been agreed that anyone from Bougainville spotted traveling into Shortlands will be asked to turn back immediately.