Increasing Access to Local Food Crop Planting Material for Improved Nutrition and Incomes in the Solomon Islands

Kastom Gaden’s Innov4AgPacific Agriculture-Nutrition-Income Seed Funding Project in the Solomon Islands

In recent years, the growing population in Solomon’s Islands has been the fundamental driver of agricultural change. This has led to considerable intensification in land use and has resulted in soil degradation and the increase in pests and diseases.

 

According to the Kastom Gaden Association (KGA) the most efficient way to in­crease sustainable production, consistency, supply and expand market and income generation oppor­tunities for Solomon Island farmers and farm communities is to increase the availability of selected high yielding local varieties of root crops and open pollinated vegetables and practice soil fertility techniques. Currently farmers have limited access to high yielding varieties which are afford­able and of good quality.

 

KGA is one of the largest farmer organizations in the Solomon Islands, committed to support the self-reliance of rural communities through sustainable small-scale agriculture. Its members are primarily connected through the Planting Material Network (PMN) which is managed by KGA.

 

KGA recognized that 85% of the population depend entirely on subsistence agricul­ture as their key source of live­lihoods. Therefore, diverse farming systems that meet family, so­cial and economic needs and provide resilience in times of stress are critical for food and livelihood security.

 

KGA is implementing the Innov4AgPacific Community Agriculture-Nutrition-Income Seed Funding Project « Improving Local Food Crop Planting Material Production & Supply Systems for improved Food Security & Livelihoods of Rural Populations in the Solomon Islands ».

 

The objective of this project is to enhance income generating opportunities of farmers in the PMN and beyond, by scaling up ongoing activities that strengthen their capacity to increase the availability of affordable quality planting material for the production of root crops and open pollinated vegetables.

 

Specific activities include:

*Establishment of seed produc­tion centres, one each in Malaita and Western prov­ince;

*Provision of training skills towards building capaci­ties of germplasm centres;

*Establishment of dem­onstration gardens, nurser­ies, seed savings, and rapid multiplications through ‘hands on the job’ train­ings at selected germplasm sites in Malaita, Western and Guadalcanal Provinc­es; and

*Provision of superior varieties of the selected crops, accessible to farm­ers, women, groups and rural training centres (RTCs).

Pitakia Tikai, Coordinator at KGA explains the organisations’ work and the project with Innov4AgPacific.

 

Additionally, nutrition training and awareness is one of the cross-cutting issues that KGA is implementing through the project to ensure that people have increased awareness on the importance of consuming nutritious food, and also learn how to prepare them. Nutrition training topics will also cover areas on food nutrition, awareness on non-communicable diseases (NCD), its causes and current trends on people’s health, con­ducting practical cooking sessions using basic tech­niques.

 

 

Seed saving activities at Kastom Gaden Headquarters in Burnscreek Honiara

 

Training in rapid multiplication- establishing garden plots

Two successful training events of four days each have been conducted at Adaua in Lau Baelele constituency, North Malaita and on Simbo island in the western province. The training in North Malaita was attended by 26 partici­pants of which 9 were females. On Simbo island, 30 farmers actively partici­pated in the workshop, 19 of whom were females.

Mrs Thecla Vupusy field crop technician of KGA demonstrating how to clean and process open pollinated seeds during the training in North Malaita. Photo by Solomon Star News.

During the training sessions the participants learned how to:

  • Conduct rapid multiplication of planting materials and seed saving techniques;
  • Set up a nursery;
  • Establish a bulk­ing centre;
  • Properly label plant materials; and
  • Use simple tools for soil cultivation to increase fertility.

 

In both training workshops, a garden plot size of 40m x 40m was established, where all the root crop varieties collected are grown. These varieties will later be evaluated by the farmers through diversity fairs in the communities in July this year and those selected as “best” will be shared/ distributed to interested members in the communities to grow e.g. yam, taro and sweet potato.


From the Innov4AgPacific study ‘Profiling Bioactive Compounds and Key Nutrients in Pacific Island Crops and Marine Resources’: Bioactive compounds along with macro and micro nutrients found in crops and seafood play an important role for our health and wellbeing. Foods containing bioactive compounds have shown various health beneficial properties, for example cardio-protective, hepatoprotective, anticancer, antidiabetic, anti-obesity, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory.

  • Taro : Leaves, stalk and corm are highly nutritious. Contains bioactive compounds such as flavonoids, ß-sitosterol, steroids, alkaloids, saponins, tannins, anthocyanins. Used as laxative, diuretic, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, anti-diabetic, antihepatotoxic, antihelminthic. Nutritional value: Carbohydrate (CHO), fibre, amino acids, Ca, P, vitamine C.
  • Yam: Bioactive compounds: Antioxidants, carotenoids, and mucilage. Nutritional value: Carbohydrate (CHO), fibre, Ca, P, Zn, Fe, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, glucoronic acid, rhamnose.
  • Sweet potato: Bioactive compounds: Has anti-mutagenic, anticancer, anti-diabetes and antibacterial properties. Contains antioxidants, polyphenols, anthocyanin, carotenoids, flavonoids. Nutritional value: Carbohydrate (CHO), fibre, Ca, Na, P, Zn, K, Mn, Fe, β-Carotene, vitamins A, C. Leaves are also edible and nutritious but are hardly utilised.

The trainers also carried out baseline surveys around the surrounding communities where the germplasm centre was established – information/data will be used to monitor and measure the impact of the interventions.

 

Chief of the Adaua Community, Pius Filimana, in his remarks at the end of the workshop stated that « such service is important, it fills the gap as well as compliments the services provided by the Ministry of Ag­riculture & Livestock and other stakeholders. »

Mini-set propagation demonstration of crops during the North Malaita training. Photo by Solomon Star News

Resilience building – Farmers can produce quality seeds

As part of the project, KGA also focuses on strengthening individual farmer’s capacities. For example, KGA contracted Mr Teddy Baega, a Burns Creek farmer, to produce high quality seeds for the Planting Material Network. Previously, Teddy attended seed saving trainings conducted by KGA.

KGA delivered 816 seedlings of long yard bean to the farmer and he planted a plot size of 10m X 15m. During the contract period KGA regularly visited the farmer to monitor his progress and where needed gave advice on pest and disease management, good soil care practices and shared other technical skills for the farmer to prepare him to continue his own garden when the contract ends.

Although there was flooding in the area between 1st – 3rd of January 2019, a total of 34 kilograms of matured bean pods were harvested. After drying and sorting the seeds, the total weight of beans ready for packaging was about 4.6 kilograms.

Teddy harvested matured bean pods at his farm for drying.
Dried bean seeds from Teddy’s farm being weighed just before packaging.

This KGA community nutrition seed funding project is one of the two projects selected by Innov4AgPacific where the Community Food Production & Health (CFaH) Project tools will be tested to evaluate the nutritional adequacy of diets and the economic and social benefits derived by households in selected communities involved in the Innov4AgPacific seed funding Agriculture-Nutrition-Income projects.

 

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