Malaitan leaders are urged to get their priorities right so that they could utilise the province’s resources well for the betterment of all people.
The province’s Agriculture Chief Field officer John Faleka offered the suggestion in an interview with the Solomon Star.
“Malaitan leaders failed to look at the importance of agriculture at the provincial and local level,” Faleka said.
“Agriculture can bring a huge difference to the lives of Malaitans if successive governments address factors pertaining to advancement of the sector,” he added.
Faleka said those in leadership positions have so long disregarded the importance of agriculture to the province.
“One weakness of government is their distribution of agricultural projects throughout the province,” he said.
He revealed the trend of implementing same agriculture projects sparsely throughout the province caused uncompetitive and a fallible economy.
“When prices fluctuate farmers were easily discouraged, resorting to other products where their markets are always good.
“Leaders failed to find markets and avenue for farmers to expose and sell their products in due course.”
Faleka pointed out that all governments do is officiating ground breaking ceremonies and that’s about it.
“All that the government plainly does is tying the loose ends which all builds up to politics.”
Malaita’s core agriculture domestic exporting commodities are coconut, cocoa, piggery, poultry and root and vegetative production.
Faleka gave rice production as a classic example.
“Government under the ministry of agriculture is not serious with rice production.
“It has become obvious that rice is now a staple in the country.
“High demand and fluctuation of the economy recently forced the government to grant licences to five other rice importers with hopes of lessening the effects of inflation.
“Solomon Islands should not depend on overseas rice imports as it will discourage local farmers from engaging large scale farming.
“If government provides constructive planning to aid farmers, our rice production will off-set imported products,” he said.
Faleka said last year, nearly $16 million were allocated to the province in the name of agriculture development for rehabilitation of coconut, cattle, cocoa project, agriculture research and development, and women’s agriculture programme.
It is understood that few projects in the province such as Asia Pacific Scheme Development (APSD) in Fiu, farmers in central and west Kwara’ae and parts of northern region continue to cultivate agriculture and rear livestock products at small scale.
A project called SWoCK, worth US$5.5 million for the period of 2010-2014, implemented through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), is underway in the province.
It was executed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock to improve food production, adapting to climate change and ensuring food security merging with other sectors.
The newly built market in Auki opened last year funded by the Japanese government also shows the flow of cash economy and sustenance of food security for the population.
Malaita recently embraced some major agriculture project like reviving of the cattle industry in West Kwaio last year and implementation of agricultural framework policy by the local government earlier.
In the meantime, a slaughter house built in 2011 by the government worth $1.2 million for the province remains incomplete due to alleged misuse of fund by responsible provincial government officials and contractors.
BY TEDDY KAFO