- Sustainable Development -
The Solomon Islands are located in the Pacific Ocean northeast of Australia. They are exposed to natural disasters, such as earthquakes and tsunamis. Food security in the region is also under threat, as a result of climate change. Agriculture is subsistence and dependent upon almost-daily rainfall. In the event of even short periods without rain, family-based farming would lose its source of irrigation, and reserves of drinking water would be adversely affected. Tag is working to enable the islanders to prepare themselves for future disasters and mobilize their community resources to ensure the islands’ future well-being.
One of the challenges facing Solomon Islands is how to best utilize its high-quality marine life in an economically sustainable manner. Tag Project Manager Dr. Yoel Siegel is helping the islanders to determine the best quotas and proper fee structure for licensing for foreign fishing companies as well as how to “farm” aquatic resources and manage them for future generations.
Tag’s Dr. Siegel is also helping the locals to channel significant resources from the various donor agencies active in Solomon Islands to the implementation of a four-pronged program that targets disaster preparedness, agricultural development, and small businesses, and upgrades and expands elementary school and secondary school education.
Work has begun with local communities, which have been provided with technical/professional assistance to create action plans in the four areas. Tag has been instrumental in helping to create the organisational frameworks necessary to implement the action plans.
This multi-level strategy is currently being piloted in the Provincial Island of Malaita, and the Solomon Island government plans to replicate it on other islands, once evaluation of the pilot has been completed. The Development Authority is now operationally running the marketplace according to business plans formulated with Tag. The large market, which boasts about 200 booths, is the main market of Malaita Province.
Tag’s work is feeding into a national policy for growth centres and MCDA initiatives. Thanks to Tag’s work with them, the first three growth centres to be funded are those being initiated through MCDA and the municipal government of Malaita. This initiative is truly historical, in that it marks the first time in the country’s history that landowners have signed-over 75-year leases to a municipal development authority. The long leases ensure there is time for the project to come to fruition. In early January 2013, a ceremony took place during which payment was made to the landowners to “close the deal.”
During a Tag/MASHAV visit, the idea of introducing solar power for households and small businesses to replace kerosene lanterns for home use, and small gasoline generators for small businesses, was consolidated. The products and technology will come from Israel and the approach will be to ensure the solar-powered units are properly designed and configured for the specific needs of the people in Solomon Islands. In the past, off-the-shelf products were purchased and they proved incompatible.
The excitement and economic development taking place in Malaita has already had a ripple effect, with Rene-Bell province requesting a similar development initiative.
Tag’s work in the Solomon Islands focuses on the following main areas:
A major focus is the improvement of disaster preparedness and immediate response capabilities at the community level. In parallel, a more long-term program is being planned, based on the need to relocate communities where homes are in danger of flooding from the rising tide level, and to prepare water reservoirs in the event of drought.
In March 2011, an agricultural mission to the islands helped crystallize a strategy to increase food security by promoting quality organic agriculture based upon the existing non-chemical subsistence farming. This involves the provision of technical assistance, assistance in organizing cooperative marketing, and in initiating businesses based on the processing of agricultural products.
The Malaita Chazon Development Authority will be the first partner for the implementation of the Solomon Islands government program for establishing mini-enterprise centres. These will be a combination of agro-processing-based industry, fish processing, and crafts-based businesses. The government will be responsible for implementing the transport, water and communications infrastructures.
In cooperation with two Israeli companies, the Development Authority has initiated a solar energy program to bring electricity to the mini-enterprise centres and areas that are not connected to the electricity grid and still rely on kerosene lanterns for lighting.
The education program is still in its early stages. Thus far, an overall goal has been set – to ensure that all children have quality education. This will mean upgrading physical facilities, almost doubling the number of schools and teachers, and developing specialization curriculums.