As the world deals with rounds of COVID-19 lockdowns, impacting both rich and developing countries, the Solomon Islands seems to have been spared the worst, not having recorded any large community outbreaks. Thankfully their border closures, quarantine and quick response to a few cases has helped keep it in check. However, the flow-on impacts of these policies have seen significant economic hardships as the Solomon Islands isolates itself from the world. One such impact has been the reliable access to food.
Last year saw a mass exodus of people from the capital city of Honiara to their home communities. Without any formal social safety net initiatives (like the Australian JobKeeper scheme) people have been forced to rely on their family and communities to support them with food and shelter when they lost their jobs when tourism, hospitality and many other businesses closed down. In addition to reduced incomes, limited imports and exports (also due to the pandemic) have severely strained communities’ abilities to provide sufficient levels. This has forced people to simply rely on their home gardens.
Anglican Overseas Aid has been working with a number of local Solomon Islands partners to tackle this issue through Australian Government’s Australian Humanitarian Partnership COVID-19 Response program. In October 2020 AOA facilitated a workshop bringing together a number of church partners to design a coordinated and collaborative response to food security, with the objective to share resources and knowledge. This ensured the collective reach of the Church in Solomon Islands, so remote communities are provided with the resources that they need to minimise the impacts of not having reliable access to food.
Drawing on experienced agricultural experts, AOA’s partners have been training up volunteers in sustainable agriculture, focussing on areas such as good soil management, pest control, plant nurseries, poultry raising, harvesting and sales management. Throughout 2021 AOA partners have been rolling out key activities, including establishing plant nurseries across multiple provinces, developing poultry farms and nurseries in rural training centres and schools, distributing seeds and agricultural tools and training community members in best practice organic farming. These are providing knowledge and equipment crucial to improving the resilience of remote communities and greatly reducing the impact of COVID-19 on them.
The COVID-19 Response in the Solomon Islands is funded through the Australian Government through the Australian Humanitarian Partnership (AHP).