COUNTRY PAPER: SOLOMON ISLANDS
By Dudley Wate
The Solomon Islands Livestock Industries encompass beef cattle, pigs, poultry, goats and bees. Little sustained donor funded support has been given to livestock, with the exception of the bee industry which has received continuous support from New Zealand. More recently pigs, poultry and goats have received partial support from EEC. During this time the beef cattle sector has experienced difficulties and particular has declined rapidly since 1984 to the present unsustainable level.
The beef cattle industry actually collapsed during the 1980's with total numbers falling from a high of 25,000 in 1977.
Presently, there is little new investment in the beef industry due to lack of supply of weaner stock, lack of financial support from funding agencies and poor performance of current cattle stock, and poor perception of the local cattle industry.
Smallholder cattle farmers have not widely integrated cattle into their farming systems e.g. tethering. Commercial producers usually achieve poor production and growth rate performance due to rampant in breeding on most properties. On a brighter note demand for new genetic materials is forecasted to be substantial.
2.0 CURRENT SITUATION
The current situation is that activity in the Livestock Industry is mainly concentrated around Honiara. There is little commercial activity in the Provinces due to erratic and costly supplies and transport costs, lack of electricity for processing and storage and marketing difficulties. While Honiara is reasonably supplied in pigs and poultry, beef cattle numbers are very low and imports of meat and meat products are at a high level.
In addition, there are concerns that much of the fresh meat supplied locally for public sale is sourced from slaughter houses that have poor hygiene control.
There is only one small dairy herd (26 cows) in the country owned by a school. All milk and milk by products are imported from either New Zealand or Australia.
There is one feed mill recently established for the commercial production of animal feeds but production and quality of feeds are still low. Import costs are high and subject to erratic shipping schedules.
Solomon islands has approximately 9,500 head of cattle (8,000 1992/93 estimate), 5,000 of which are smallholder owned and grazing partially a total grazing resources of 17,000 ha (9,000 ha. of which is grossly weed infested). With rehabilitation of this resource comprising 6,500ha smallholder with very low legume contents, 3,300 ha LDA/SIG lands 3,000 ha. of native and guinea grass pastures on the former Levers Solomons Ltd plantations on the Russell Islands and Guadalcanal, and 4,000ha. of FMD Community plantations along with a planned 5,000 ha. of new pasture development, this resource running 1.5 animals/ha (1.2 animal units/ha) could sustain 33,000 heads.
3.0 COUNTRY ISSUES
A national Cattle Development Plan has been instituted which includes a specific plan for the rehabilitation of the beef cattle industry.
Solomon Islands Government (SIG) is keen to rebuild the cattle industry in commercially viable areas which have access to established markets. There continues to be scope for significant targeted development in the country such as Gizo, Kolombangara, North New Georgia, Rendova, areas of Western Province, Santa Isabel, Makira, accessible and adequately fertile areas on Malaita and Guadalcanal.
There is growing local and overseas private sector interest in cattle projects on the Guadalcanal Plains, under new ownership of previous Levers Solomon's Ltd (LSL) properties on Guadalcanal and Russell Islands, there may be scope for the new company to increase cattle production.
The SIG had recently supported a Danish proposal for a milk re-constitution plant. This would be followed by a dairy production feasibility study to be carried out by the Commonwealth Secretariat.
The impact of the genetic improvement from the recently imported bulls and semen from Australia should start to be realized by the middle of 1996. Future SIG Support for AI was likely but funding for more bulls was unlikely as this would have to be taken up by the private sector.
There continues to be strong interest on Malaita and Santa Cruz for breeding stock. LDA Tombulu appears to have a regular, significant demand for breeders from smallholders. Some smallholders in the Ringgi area have approached KFPL for assistance to establish small cattle projects under replanted teak and mahogany.
Re-development of the beef cattle industry must only be encouraged on land systems of adequate soil fertility to sustain an adequate legume component without fertilizer inputs. If areas are developed for pastures they should only be bush areas of low ecological merit e.g. areas dominated by Merremia, Hibiscus etc.
4.0 FAO PASTURE IMPROVEMENT TRAINING PROJECT
The FAO South Pacific Regional Pasture Improvement Training Project (TCP/RAS/4451) commenced training programmes for nine (9) carefully selected Solomon Islanders, six (6) farmers and three (3) Livestock Extension Agents from July to September 1994 in Vanuatu.
There were three (3) follow-up missions completed by the Chief Technical Adviser (CTA), the first one was completed in January, 1995, second visit took place from 10/6/95 - 24/6/95, and while the third from 12/10/95 to 21/10/95. These visits were to assess trainee programmes of pasture improvement developed as against actual progress achieved. Farm visits with Livestock Extension Agents were made, and collaborative discussions between farmers, extension advisers and CTA on problem solving and farm development planning for the immediate future. The CTA was involved in MAF organized activity involving a farmer group and wide ranging discussions were held with MAF staff, farmers, agribusiness, CEMA, and KFPL regarding components and issues associated with designing the Solomon Islands component of a regional project devoted to sustainable animal production from pastures.
5.0 TRAINEES' PERFORMANCE AND PROGRESS
It has been found that a steady rate of progress was maintained by the Solomon Islands farmer trainees in implementing their individual programmes of on farm pasture and livestock improvement on their return from training in Vanuatu.
Angel Ita, trainee from South Malaita has been involved in a long standing Community dispute over the management of a Community Cattle project, and has not been effective on his return in applying new technology.
Stephen Mara, one of the best farmers, out-performed his target programmes and continued to maintain his pasture improvement activities and is now diversifying with other family members into retail butchering.
Grace Gurulau continued to make creditable progress, although appears to be a victim of unresolved cattle theft.
Stephen Riniu has not maintained his previous level of activity.
Ratu Bebeni has been hampered in his programme by the financial problems facing his employer.
Mark Biloko from SICHE Farm has made progress but is slightly behind his target.
George Buga has made good progress and is likely to exceed his target over the next year.
Guadalcanal Extension Officer, Samson Tim whilst maintaining regular contacts with his Livestock farmers is behind on his Extension material production schedule. Tim needs to develop a whole farm development planning approach when encouraging or assisting farmers in borrowing significant sums of money from the Development Bank.
Chris Sunata has made good progress on Santa Cruz in both physical achievements and technology transfers.
6.0 NATIONAL POLICY GOALS AND OBJECTIVES
Solomon Islands Government policy goals and objectives are to sustain self-sufficiency in all Livestock Sectors with exports where possible. Better human nutrition, more affordable animal products, import substitution and employment opportunities are integral to Livestock development.
There is a need for an holistic examination of all facets of Livestock industries so that recommendations for the most effective approach to rehabilitation and sustainability can be made. Both the Government and Aid Agencies would use this study as a guide for future policy and input of manpower and resources.
7.0 CATTLE DEVELOPMENT STRATEGIES
The Solomon Islands Government has a three phase plan for re-development of the cattle industry to reverse the current decline in fresh and processed beef.
The first phase involves the development of an elite beef breeding herd on Tenavatu Farm.
The second phase involves the encouragement and assistance for 25 ha + Commercial Cattle farms in the Provinces through planning, marketing, extension advisory support and facilitation of supply of weaners for breeding and DBSI finance to well established, credit worthy cattle farmers. These commercial Provincial farms would eventually serve as suppliers of breeding stock to surrounding interested farmers.
The third phase involves continued provision of breeding animals for smallholder expansion and restocking. Improved extension, advisory and farmer training services leading to significantly increased areas of quality improved pasture, better grazing management and better animal husbandry practices.
Also SIG wishes to encourage a greater integration of cattle in smallholder farming systems which would include promotion of tethering for resource limited farmers.
The responsibility of monitoring the success of these phases would be shared jointly by Livestock and veterinary services, Provincial Livestock officers, Tenavatu Farm, Provincial Extension Services and the Agricultural Management Services Unit (AMSU).
SIG policy is to encourage the rehabilitation of existing grazing lands, although it is recognized, there are opportunity areas in some recently logged areas.
8.0 PROJECT INTEGRATION
The proposed FAO project will integrate with Solomon Islands Government development strategies and continue to provide technical and management support for the rehabilitation of Tenavatu and Kongga Farms.
It will provide direct extension advisory services to, and integrate its demonstration programme with the sponsored commercial focal farms in the Provinces under phase 2. Through the specified overseas and local training, on-farm demonstration, extension support, genetic improvement and marketing programmes the project will make a major contribution to the commercial success of the SIG cattle extension programme - phase 3.
Pasture and grazing management technologies for cattle will also be relevant for the dairy and goat industries.
A significant contribution to small livestock development, by demonstrating the commercial value of locally grown forage species which may be used to supplement the diet of pigs and poultry, thus improving the quality of locally formulated stockfeeds and contributing to the profitability of pigs and poultry enterprises.
The project will ensure men and women have first hand access to proven technologies through the General Extension Services and the Womenís Agricultural Extension Service.
Livestock Extension Advisory Services will be strengthened through its in-service training programme, on-farm demonstrations, provision of extension materials and assistance to SIG to improve its capacity to supply breeding animals to the private sector.
With its butchery training, market access support and development programme the FAO project will integrate and provide strong support to SIG policies for sustainable commercial opportunities in more remote provincial areas.
By demonstrating the potential for forage legumes to improve soil fertility or slow soil fertility decline, smother weeds, provide moisture conserving mulches and control erosion on steeplands, the project will contribute to improving gardening efficiency and commercial cropping profitability whilst reducing the negative environmental impacts of some current practices.
Additional positive environmental impacts will come about as a result of a better informed extension network and farming community with reduced weed infestation and soil erosion through adoption of improved pasture, and correct grazing management strategies.
9.0 FUTURE NEEDS AND FURTHER DEVELOPMENT ASSISTANCE
Further development assistance is required to build significantly upon the momentum already generated by FAO South Pacific Regional Pasture Improvement Training Project.
Such a Regional Project should be devoted to sustainable animal production from pastures and be seen as essential for sustained development of a generally neglected sub-sector of South Pacific Agriculture Sector.
met, are perceived as follows:-
Key aspects of a future project which would improve the ability of producer, government, non-government and agribusiness sectors to get their development needs met are as follows:
1. Training of government and non-government extension agents, to improve their technical, farm development planning, problem-solving and practical skills in order to deliver more competent and confident (and well adopted) extension advisory support services to rural communities with pasture based Livestock farming systems.
2. Training of key men and women from the farming community, who will network with extension advisory services to improve their technical knowledge, practical skills and community extension role in the management of sustainable pasture based animal production systems.
3. An effective extension and applied research network of convincing on-farm demonstrations which clearly depict the cost effectiveness of particular technologies relevant to major commercial livestock localities.
4. An effective extension support and community awareness programme involving regular field days/farm visits revolving around key demonstrations, videos, publications, posters and radio programmes which clearly demonstrate not only the economic but environmental and social benefit of adopting promoted technology.
5. Specific assistance in genetic improvement of cattle available to rural communities. In remote areas, meat marketing and the promotion of local meat products where these factors are major constraints to sustainable ruminant livestock development.
6. Request for an increase in the proposed key participating farmers, Livestock staff, and Extension Agents from Solomon Islands are as follows:-
1. Key Farmers 2. Livestock/Extension
1 Malaita 1 Makira
1 Guadalcanal 1 Isabel
1 Isabel 1 Western
1 Western 1 DBSI
1 Makira 1WomenAgri.Extn
Total 12 key Farmers/Livestock Staff/Extension Agents for overseas training in Vanuatu for 2 weeks of the project.
7. It is suggested that 300 bull rings per year and with 3 coils of ropes to be requested under the new FAO project.
To conclude, I on behalf of the Solomon Island Government wish to record our appreciation and acknowledgment to FAO for the assistance given during the past two years under FAO South Pacific Regional Pasture Training Project (TCP/RAS/4451).
A further mention and appreciation should be given to Mr David Macfarlane, Chief Technical Advisor for implementing the project and generating the interest amongst each participating country.
Solomon Island would like to see continued and further development assistance from FAO to be given and this should be devoted to sustainable animal production from pasture to support this generally neglected sub-sector of South Pacific Agriculture Sector.
Q.1. What proportion of farms are smallholdings and what proportion are large scale?
Ans [DW]: I would say 50/50.
Q.2. What was done with the Government support asked for and why hasn't the Government support requested been fully utilized?
Ans [DW]: Well the thing is that we opted to use it on some infrastructure improvement and other more urgently required activities in anticipation of continuous support which didnít eventuate and therefore the inability to sustain efforts towards improvement of the cattle industry.
Q.3. What was done with the cattle imported?
Ans [DW]: This small number of cattle were distributed mostly in the main islands due mainly to prohibitively high transportation costs to isolated islands and farms.