Harvesting of yam and pana at one of the bulking sites in Choiseul Province. Photo: UNDP.

Honiara, Solomon Islands
- Traditional staple food crops such as yam, pana and taro once commonly found in abundance throughout the Solomon Islands but are slowly overtaken by other crops such as sweet potato and cassava are expected to find their way back into home gardens and on the dinner tables for many Solomon Islanders.

For many years, yam, pana and taro were important staple food crops for most of the provinces in the Solomon Islands. But since the introduction of sweet potato and cassava, the planting of yams, pana and taro have drastically been reduced.

Not only are sweet potato and cassava easy to plant, it takes less than four months to mature and  harvest compared to taro, yams and pana, which are currently being bulked in various bulking sites, take six to seven months.

Variable weather conditions due to climate change, the impacts of crop pests and diseases, and the importation of lesser quality convenient foods also influence local farmers’ decision in types of staple crop to grow. Most prefer sweet potato and cassava to yam, pana and taro.

Under the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)-supported Strongem Waka lo Community fo Kaikai (SWoCK) project, a variety of crops have been bulked and multiplied to enable sufficient planting materials are kept for further distribution. This is being done to help revive the crops that are endemic to a particular area and have high tolerance to crop pest and diseases and are resilient to climate change.

As a result, seven yam and pana bulking sites and demonstration plots has been set-up – three in Guadalcanal and two each in the Makira-Ulawa and Choiseul provinces.

“The results has been very encouraging and with the number of yams harvested. They will be replanted to double or triple the amount to enable planting materials are available to meet local farmers’ demands,” said Simo Pitavoqa, Provincial Project Coordinator for Makira-Ulawa Province.

“I’m very happy that the various yam species have been revived through this bulking site and I’m hopeful that they will be distributed widely so that rural farmers can have enough yams to plant,” said Kemuel Gapu of the Rawo bulking site.

The promotion of bulking sites is an intervention targeting loss of planting materials by farmers, an impact resulting from irregular rainfall and prolonged dry seasons as identified from the vulnerability and adaptation assessment carried out in 2011 and 2012.

Furthermore, the vulnerability and adaptation also indicated that some households invest insufficient time into farming and this is partly due to lack of access to the right type of farming tools.

The yams, pana and taro bulked in the various bulking sites are local species suitable to the climatic area and are climate, pests and diseases tolerant which may result in food security for the pilot communities in which SWoCK project activities are being implemented.

To support local farmers and encourage more people engaging in farming, gardening tools were also distributed to the villages covered by the SWoCK project.

The SWoCK project is funded from the Kyoto Adaptation Fund, with US$5.1 million for the period of 2011-2015, implemented through UNDP and executed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock and the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management and Meteorology of the Solomon Islands. Besides the introduction of climate resilient crop varieties and enhanced farming systems, the project supports a range of other practical adaptation measures, such as climate-resilient land-use planning, climate early-warning and information system, germ plasm collection and agriculture food banks, national assessment of soil types and their vulnerability to degradation, enhanced food processing and storage techniques, amongst others.

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