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Geography, climate and population
The Solomon Islands is a country in the South Pacific Ocean, lying to the east of Papua New Guinea and northwest of Vanuatu, composed of around 1000 islands of which approximately 350 are inhabited. The country has total area of 28 900 km▓. The major islands are Guadalcanal (5 120 km▓) where the capital Honiara is located, Malaita (4 310 km▓), Makira (San Cristobal) (3 190 km▓), Santa Isabel (3 000 km▓), Choiseul (2 970 km▓) and New Georgia (2 037 km▓). These islands vary in length from 145 to 190 km and in width from 35 to 50 km. The remaining are smaller islands and atolls (SOPAC, 2007; Sullivan and Guglielmi, 2007). The country is divided into ten administrative areas: nine provinces and the capital city Honiara.
The agricultural area, which is the sum of arable land, permanent crops, and permanent meadows and pasture, is estimated at 108 000 ha, which is 4 percent of the total area of the country. In 2013, the total physical cultivated area was estimated at 100 000 ha, of which 20 percent (20 000 ha) consisted of temporary crops and 80 percent (80 000 ha) of permanent crops (Table 1).
The islands vary considerably, from a small tiny atoll island to a high mountainous heavily dense rain forested island; the highest point on the islands is the Mount Popomanaseu at 2 310 m on the island of Guadalcanal. Flat land is restricted to the coasts and is of limited extent, except in the north-central part of Guadalcanal, referred to as the Guadalcanal Plains. Approximately 80-85 percent of the total land area are natural forest (SOPAC, 2007).
The Solomon Islands have a tropical monsoon climate with a relatively high and uniform temperature, high humidity and abundant rainfall. Temperatures fluctuate between 25║C to 32║C during the day and some degrees less during the night. The mean annual rainfall is estimated at about 3 000 mm, ranging from 1 500 to 5 000 mm and with a total exceeding 8 000 mm on high peaks. This wide variation depends on topography, latitude and orientation of the islands to prevailing winds. The dry season is from April to November and the wetter north-west monsoon season from November to April, with a tendency of reduced rainfall during February when the equatorial trough is normally furthest south (SOPAC, 2007; Sullivan and Guglielmi, 2007; Wairiu and Powell, 2006).
In 2015, the total population was about 583 600, of which around 78 percent was rural (Table 1). Population density is 20 inhabitants/km▓. The average annual population growth rate in the 2005-2015 period has been estimated at 2.2 percent. Approximately 350 islands are inhabited including the six main islands of Guadalcanal, Malaita, Makira, Santa Isabel, Choiseul and New Georgia (Wairiu and Powell, 2006).
In 2014, the Human Development Index (HDI) ranks the Solomon Islands 156 among 188 countries. Life expectancy is 68 years and the under-five mortality is 28 per 1000 births, both progressing from 60 years and 37 per 1000 in the 1990s. With no significant distinction between boys and girls, around 81 percent of the children in 2007 were enrolled in primary education, but only 31 percent for secondary education (WB, 2015). In 2015, 81 percent of the total population had access to improved water sources (93 and 77 percent in urban and rural areas respectively) and 30 percent of the total population had access to improved sanitation (81 and 15 percent in urban and rural areas respectively) (JMP, 2015).