New farming method and demonstration plots developed in North Malaita to improve food security
(Honiara, Solomon Islands) - Farmers from four communities in North Malaita now know the best method to plant on hillsides, prevent soil erosion and improve their yields. This has been made possible by the establishment of demonstration plots through a national project aimed at enhancing the resilience of local communities to adapt to climate change and ensure food security.
A team comprising agriculture officers headed by the Strogem Woaka Lo Community Fo Kaikai (SWoCK) Malaita Provincial project Coordinator Mary Fa’alimae established the demonstration plots last month in four communities - Fa’alau, Mbita’ama, Malu’u and Loina in the Northern region of Malaita where for many years people have been farming on hill side slopes.
A report prepared by the SWoCK Land Use team in March this year indicated that this region is susceptible to soil erosion and landslides during heavy rains, and causes continuing loss of nutrients from runoffs. These impacts are exacerbated by climate change, due to more intense rainfall events and long spells of dry seasons. The team had suggested that more legume plants be planted in these gardening areas to improve top soils and enable better yields from crops grown by the local communities.
An earlier food assessment carried out by SwoCK in September 2012 had indicated that food production had been reduced as a result of poor soil conditions and consequently people were not too willing to go on farming when they know the yields will be less than what is normally expected.
As a result of the two reports, a joint SWoCK and Agriculture team carried out hillside terracing in the areas with the aim of developing demonstration centers whereby villagers can learn new farming methods which are not harmful to the environment.
Four demonstration centers or plots have been established to serve thousands of people in the northern region of Malaita. Other farming methods which will be included in the demonstration plots are fertility soil pits, composting and mulching which will be introduced later.
The establishment of the four demonstration centers had been welcomed by the villagers as a way forward in security food supply for the many families who are depending on imported food for survival.
“We are very optimistic that this method of farming will eventually meet our food security needs. It’s good the center is established in this community as it will enable my students to come here to have a look at the farming methods and apply them in their own localities” said Fred Maeliau of Fa’alu, a primary school teacher and a member of the Fa’alau SWoCK committee.
The demonstration centers will serve the people surrounding the plots to enable them improve their soil and plant new crops which will be planted in these centers.
The crops will include pest resistant potatoes, yams, taro, cassava and vegetables.
“The plot is for all the people around it and they are welcomed to come and have a look at what methods of farming they’d like to apply. They will also be able to collect whatever planting materials or seedlings available in this demonstration center. People are free to visit these centers and put into practice enhanced farming method they’d like to introduce on their own gardens” said Mary Fa’alimae, SWoCK’s Malaita Project Coordinator.
Ms Fa’alimae said the terracing method being introduced is recommended because during rainy seasons top soils are carried downhill by runoffs and the setting up of plant and legume barriers across hillside slopes slow down the runoffs leaving the top soils between the terraces where green manures from trees cleared will be left to rot giving more nutrients to the plants.
She said that in this gardening system, there will be no burning of trees and shrubs as they will be used as mulch and compost to plant crops on as opposed to what people had been using over the last hundred years on these slopes.
People use steep hillsides to plant their crops as flat lands along the coast lines have been used to build villages and plant cash crops such as coconuts, cocoa and recently teak. It is expected that climate resilient crop varieties and farming techniques introduced will enhance food security in the target region, reducing risks posed by increasing climate variability and change to crop production.
The SWoCK project is funded from the Kyoto Adaptation Fund, with US$5.5 million for the period of 2010-2014, implemented through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and executed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock and the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management and Meteorology of the Solomon Islands. Besides the introduction of climate resilient crop varieties and enhanced farming systems, the project supports a range of other practical adaptation measures, such as climate-resilient land-use planning, climate early-warning and information system, germ plasm collection and agriculture food banks, national assessment of soil types and their vulnerability to degradation, enhanced food processing and storage techniques, amongst others.
Akiko Fujii, Deputy Resident Representative for the Solomon Islands, email: firstname.lastname@example.org