AUKI, SOLOMON ISLANDS – The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Strengthening Competitiveness Agriculture and Livelihoods (SCALE) project delivered on several key initiatives to support agriculture and small-scale farmers in Malaita province.
At a December 1 event, United States Chargé d’Affaires Mr. Russell Comeau awarded the first four Forest and Development Fund grants, welcomed the first American international agriculture volunteer to Malaita province, and announced the first partnership agreement
Speaking at the event, Mr. Comeau said, “The United States is proud to work with the Government of Solomon Islands, the Malaita Provincial Government, the traditional and church leaders, and the businesses and community initiatives to foster a better understanding of how a robust private sector and vibrant community initiatives can contribute to sustainable growth and benefit all Solomon Islanders.”
The Forest and Development Fund provides grants to Solomon Islands organizations for activities that support USAID SCALE’s objectives of protecting forest, enhancing livelihoods, and building capacity of local organizations. The first four awardees’ projects will support two Rural Training Centers developing profit-driven tree nurseries and two communities seeking to develop livelihoods while protecting their natural resources.
Forest and Development Fund recipient Edward Haikau Huitarau of the Ahetaha Water Conservation Association expressed gratitude and lauded the support. “I am sure this is the first of the many more support to come from USAID and SCALE-NRM. We are very privileged and thankful that USAID through the SCALE-NRM project operating in Malaita saw fit to initially support our organizations to progress our goals. This model of aid support is truly a way forward because it helps resource owners and tribes to not only manage but take ownership and benefit from their resources,” he said.
Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Forestry and Research Dr. Vaeno Vigulu stated that the ministry recognises the multiple uses and benefits that the forestry sector provides to Solomon Islands as a country and society, its people and the resource owners through its many economic, social and ecological benefits.
“The National Government through my ministry wants to maintain a long-term view of the forestry sector that continues to sustain its growing economy, contribute to infrastructure development, maintain the environment and its ecosystem services, and improve the people’s livelihoods.”
Dr. Vaeno added that USAID support through the SCALE project perfectly aligns with the National Forest Policy therefore commends USAID and pledges support towards the work and partnership.
Participants at the event welcomed the first American international agriculture volunteer to Malaita province, who arrives in December. USAID supports the global Farmer to Farmer program to match experienced agricultural specialists from the U.S. with farmers around the world for short term assignments. This first volunteer will work with grantees and the NRM Advisory Committee to map out what skills are needed to support SCALE partners around Malaita in 2023.
CDA Comeau also announced the launch of the first SCALE-MSP Partnership Agreement with Commodity Corporation Pty Ltd, or C-Corp. C-Corp is investing its own money as well into a roughly USD $800,000 (SBD $6.5m) project that will work with local partners throughout the province to expand private sector innovation into cocoa exports from Malaita Province.
USAID’s SCALE is a comprehensive five-year project to advance economic competitiveness and inclusiveness with specific emphasis on the development of the agribusiness sector and improved management of the forestry sector. In line with the Solomon Islands’ National Development Strategy 2016-2035, USAID SCALE initiative targets three sub-objectives: (a) improve the enabling environment for increased trade and investment; (b) promote the expansion and further development of the agribusiness sector; and (c) improve natural resources governance. USAID will integrate technical assistance and investment financing for small-scale infrastructure to support the growth of the agribusiness sector. USAID SCALE initiative is a national five-year, $25 million (SBD $205.5m) investment in economic growth and trade in the Solomon Islands with an initial focus on Malaita Province.