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Saturday, February 28, 2015
- Down the main road in Munda, a coastal town on the North Georgia Island of the Solomon Islands, past the wharf, the market and a small collection of shops, Patrick Arathe’s farm is reached by walking first across the runway of the local airport and finally along a dirt track that winds between residential buildings until it opens into a large clearing.
Here the crops are laid out in a pattern, with beds of cabbages and other vegetables in the centre, encircled by plantings of corn, banana and pawpaw trees. A group of young boys who have been abandoned by their parents tend to this small farm, performing every task from planting seeds to harvesting produce.
Although subsistence agriculture is the dominant livelihood for the 552,000 people in the Solomon Islands, urban agricultural enterprises like this one are becoming an increasingly rare sight.
Both the Ministry of Health for the Solomon Islands and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have reported that changes in lifestyles and eating habits have resulted in 93.6 percent of the population consuming less than the recommended five servings of fruit and vegetables per day.
Leslie Kiadapite, principal field officer at the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock in Munda, told IPS, “Eating patterns in the communities have changed. People (consume) more imported foods and are moving away from gardening. People depend on rice, noodles and food (they can) buy in stores.”
Young people, in particular, regularly consume food products high in fat, sugar and carbohydrates.
Fifty-five percent of the population of the Solomon Islands is under 29 years, and only one in six students who complete school acquire formal employment
Thus the farm provides a much-needed alternative form of livelihood and income generation.