BY JOHN HOUANIHAU
THE first-ever 10-year Agriculture Sector Growth Strategy and Investment Plan has received overwhelming support and valuable inputs from the Premiers as it’s going through the final consultation for ratification before presentation to Cabinet.
This was after the Question and Answer (Q&A) session conducted for eight provincial Premiers by the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock on the first-ever Solomon Islands Agriculture roadmap and 10-year Agriculture Sector Growth Strategy and Investment Plan (ASGSIP 2021-2030) at the Heritage Park Hotel, Honiara.
The Honourable Premier of Guadalcanal Province, Francis Sade told attendees that it feels like the government’s primary agricultural strategies have forgotten the people of the country.
Premier Sade opened the Q&A session by questioning the practical relevance of the popular slogan – ‘agriculture is the backbone of the country concerning the country’s Agriculture strategic roadmap that will guide the country in the development of the agricultural sector in the next ten years.
“More than 40 years ago when I was kid, they said that agriculture is the backbone, I think it’s time we got the time to change that, we should change the slogan to ‘agriculture is the oxygen of the country’.
“It is important because this country is an agricultural country and most of the agendas talked about in other levels of the government has nothing to do with the people of this country.
“When you talk about agriculture that is when you talk the Solomon Islands. Agriculture is only the sector that touches the life of the people and I believe with the strategy you have come up with is implemented through the partnership we want to develop, we will see a change in the country.
“Why I said that because back then we have implemented some work within the sector and currently we have a consultant coming to help us to develop the export pass way and access protocol and I would be glad if we could discuss it on how to align your strategy with ours and how you can support us,” Premier Sade told attendees at the Forum.
The Premier also highlighted that Solomon Islanders should only farm and consume home-grown rice, instead of importing $2 million in rice every year.
“So when it comes back to agriculture, we need to implement the strategy. Because we had a lot of lands out there and when we are talking about Guadalcanal plains, the oil palm plantation, it only covered a small area of mostly grassland, and yet we have not utilized the availability of these resources; most lands lay idle.
“And why I support the strategy is that my government will talk with people to avail land for this. It is time that we support landowners through technical support, organize them to toil the soil with high-value crops,’’ Premier Sade said.
He also questioned the mechanism needed to implement the 10-year Agriculture Sector Growth Strategy and Investment Plan (ASGSIP 2021-2030).
“And for us at the provincial government, we feel that we always left out in every available grant from the government over the years.
“And when I look at the agriculture sector advisory structure here, I like to propose that there must be a technical team sitting next to the Provincial Government to provide technical support in all circumstances, either in groundwork and paperwork.
“Stakeholders and the government through the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock have to come up with good mechanism on how effective they can implement the strategy and employ people who can deliver the work according to government expectation.”
Development of the ASGSIP 2021-2030 started in 2019 with nationwide consultations to all provinces including Honiara by local consultants with SIG funding support.