Many youths in the rural areas of Solomon Islands are unemployed and the idea of creating a productive vegetable garden to support themselves and their families might be a daunting task without money and the tools to make a start.
Assuming it would be possible to borrow a spade, a fork and buy some essential vegetable seeds then a method I introduced in Vanuatu many years ago to employ prisoners in my care at the Santo Prison and to provide their food proved successful, innovative and rewarding.
I first of all used the portion of barren ground adjoining the prison. Starting with just one donated spade and a fork, successive prisoners turned over the soil and removed the weeds, shrubs and ground cover.
Empty cans, including beer cans, were then acquired and the bottom of the cans cut open but leaving the bottom portion folded back in place.
The cans were filled with sandy soil and placed in long lines in a semi-shaded area.
Two old oil drums were then acquired, filled with water and a sack containing pig manure suspended into the water until the manure seeped through and resulted in a full tank of liquid manure.
Using the liquid manure watered down a little, vegetable seedling, including tomato seeds and beans planted in the cans were watered daily till they grew strong enough to be planted out in the prepared ground.
The tomatoes and beans flourished and the produce was used by the inmates of the prison to augment their daily food, but the surplus produce was supplied to the local BP store for cash.
The income was then used to acquire day-old chicks from a supplier and the hens were raised on crushed coconut till they were mature enough to be eaten or sold.
The prison garden took off from that point with the successful planting of peanuts, pineapples, bananas and other varieties of beans and root crops.
In addition, two pairs of rabbits were acquired and housed in hutches made by the prisoners using bamboo cut locally. The rabbits produced many offspring to provide health protein and needed feeding with just a handful of fresh greens and root vegetable daily.
The rabbit droppings were also a valuable source of manure for the vegetable crops.
I hope this story might inspire anyone wanting to make a start with creating a productive garden and also prove inspirational to others willing to either lend or give basic gardening tools and seeds to unemployed youths needing a helping hand to attain self-sufficiency and income.