The national government is boosting its efforts to revive the country’s Land Purchase Cooperatives (LPCs) with a technical funding assistance of CAD$203,000 (approx.SBD$1 million) from the Government of Canada.
The funding assistance was made possible by the government of Canada through its Canadian Trade and Investment Facility for Development (CTIF) following a funding request submission made to the Government of Canada by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAL) Ethel Frances, late last year.
“The request was made out of the need to revive these agriculture related Corporative (LPC) that were once the production house of copra and coconut in the country years back. The land registered under these Corporative is where we find years of investment in Cocoa and Coconut, but are now dormant. The support is to ensure these Corporative are rejuvenated to support their members –farmers.
“Market access and price has been a long standing challenge for our farmers and as individuals, they have no voice and cannot influence issues that affect them. Farmers forming as cooperatives can enhance their economic market power therefore important that we revive the Corporative models to build a support network for our farmers.
“Since the Ministry of Commerce, Industry, Labour and Immigration is the custodiam of the Cooperative Acts, they will be key Lead Partner supporting the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock in this effort,” the Permanent Secretary of MAL, Ethel Frances said.
The funding will enable MAL in alliance with MCILI to carry out preparatory and research work in reviewing the current state of farmer and marketing cooperatives in the country, recommending regulatory and policy measures that the Government may take to provide support to farmers through these cooperatives, and carrying out a pilot activity to implement part of the report’s recommendations.
The project will provide technical assistance through two main components:
- An assessment report of farmer and marketing cooperatives, which would include a survey of the profiles and activities of existing cooperatives, their capabilities to promote climate-resilient agricultural practice, roles of men and women in the cooperatives, as well as recommended interventions, including identification of training needs, for the Government of Solomon Islands
- A remote technical assistance activity, as mutually agreed upon by the Consultant and Government of Solomon Islands, to support MAL and MCILI in implementing the report’s recommendations. Expected results include enhancing the knowledge of the Government of Solomon Islands on the state of cooperatives and interventions it may undertake to improve the breadth, impact and operational capabilities of farmer and marketing cooperatives, with a view to reviving and increasing their role in sustainable and inclusive rural economic development.
The Permanent Secretary of MAL while commending the government of Canada said the assistance is a huge leap for the ministry as it progresses efforts to resurrect the country’s LPCs.
“These LPCs are part of our agriculture sector history and described as ‘Dormant Resources awaiting to stimulate agriculture development in the Solomon Islands,” Ms. Frances said.
She said reviving the country’s LPC’s is in line with the current government policy of growing the economy, create jobs and better the lives of our people through the country.
An inception meeting with representatives from CTIF, Whitelum Group- project management & supervisor consultant, MAL and MCILI to discuss project priorities and proposed approaches was convened virtually on 4th September 2020.
Ms. Frances said as a nation of islands it is difficult for Solomon Islands farmers to access markets adding Cooperatives are a mechanism that can support farmers.
“Cooperatives were strong in the past but have declined over time, with only a handful now still active. This project was conceived to find ways of supporting the strongest active cooperatives and reviving dormant ones, as a way of helping small-scale farming and income generation.
“In particular, around the time of Independence there was a scheme to support buy-back of large tracts of land from foreign companies. Many of these areas are now underutilised so reviving those cooperatives could yield ‘quick wins’, she said.
Morris Rapa’ai, Director Business and Cooperatives, MCILI, explained that cooperative support and registration sits with MCILI and is guided by the Cooperatives Act.
“There have been several types of cooperative in the past, instance retail/consumer cooperatives, tribal land cooperatives, marketing cooperatives; and then land purchase cooperatives developed in the 1980s.
“This project assignment is expected to inform a planned review and revision of the Act and updating of draft Instructions which accompany it. Around 60% of registered cooperatives are currently dormant, and MCILI wishes to develop a plan to resurrect them and encourage further cooperative development,”Mr. Rapa’ai said.
The Permanent Secretary further added that it is only fitting that we tapped into reviving the LPC’s because these are large registered land that are being held under the LPC’s with potential for us to introduce commercial agriculture development.
“LPCs are dormant resources that can be awakened through focused investments of resources through a Public and Private Partnership (PPP) that could revive the agriculture sector much quicker due to more effective and efficient delivery of support services that will result in better returns for resource investment in socio-economic returns against time. “We hope we can rekindle the interest of the LPC members to engage again in mass production of agriculture produce around the country,” Ms. Frances said.