Development is important, but it should be guided by a shared vision, one that the people can work towards and feel part of.
The North West Guadalcanal Development Association (NWGDA) is doing just that, it builds on the needs of the people, and pushes for a vision where the rural populace benefits from their own resources.
Simon Chottu is a young change maker and now the chairman of the NWGDA, he firmly believes that real development is only possible when the people are empowered.
“These farmers are rich in their own backyard, but we need to help guide and educate them so that they understand that by working together they can enjoy the richness of their resources, utilize their very own resources and turning them into monetary gain for themselves and their family," Chottu said.
The NWGDA covers communities from Horobua to Bonage, with plans to extend its reach to communities from Kaboboro to Mamara.
The establishment of the NWGDA targets the economic stimulus package as a starting point, given the limited exposure of its membership the NWGDA assisted many with their application. Many of them have been involved in the agriculture sector for many years, selling most of their produce at the Honiara Central market.
“We started filling up applications for about 100 applicants, but more people came, and we manage to get 300 applicants submitted. I see that this people had the desire to take advantage of this opportunity, so we tried as much as we can to get every application submitted,” Mr Chottu said.
From a few hundred members the NWGDA membership has swelled to around two thousand. Mr Chottu said that the impressive turnout means they have to come up with innovative ideas that can help guide and assist these local farmers.
"We try to push for the local market, where we identify buyers and negotiate good price for our farmers, this cuts out the extra cost that farmers are normally faced with when trying to sell their produce.
"The NWGDA provides Bulk Marketing as a way of channelling farmers to customers, and we only keep the records and data after every purchase.
"We also provide small trainings for our local members in each village and give them a chance to tap into our network, generate income during this pandemic. We also give them short workshop based on the Covid-19 awareness, and how they can adjust as they continue with their normal duties in the field," Mr Chottu explained.
Many of the farmers are focussed on copra, cocoa, noni, poultry, and piggery. For some, it is an inter-generational occupation, their fathers and mothers started farming and, naturally, many of their children continued. The NWGDA says as the journey continues, they will actively target youths, help them understand that there is still a big future in agriculture.
"Though we started with just a small percentage of the population, slowly I want to see us capture the whole of North West Guadalcanal constituency and to see rural people enjoy the fruits of their labour,” the NWGDA Chairman said.