The World Bank Group approved an additional funding of US$3 million for the Solomon Islands Rural Development Program (RDP).

This amount is complemented by US$3 million from the Bank-managed Food Price Crisis Response Multi-donor Trust Fund. The RDP, funded by the Solomon Islands Government, AusAid and the European Commission began in 2007 with initial funding totaling US$21.84 million. This Project is implemented by the Ministry of Development Planning and Aid Coordination.

The RDP aims to raise the living standards of rural households by improving local level infrastructure, by increasing the capacity of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock to improve agriculture extension services, and by supporting rural business development.

The additional World Bank funds will help consolidate promising progress particularly in providing essential rural infrastructure and services to communities, and improving agricultural services at the provincial level.

The RDP was initially rolled out in the four provinces of Malaita, Temotu, Western, and Choiseul. This year, the program has expanded to Makira and Isabel and expanded its geographical coverage in Malaita and Western Province. The extra funding will ensure that the project effectively reaches all provinces by 2012.

The RDP local infrastructure and service delivery component follows a community driven development approach that relies on community consultation and management. This mechanism also ensures community prioritization of needs, co-financing and execution of the investment. Project selection is based on an inclusive and transparent process at the ward and provincial levels.

There are 43 infrastructure projects either completed or nearing completion and an additional 54 in the technical design phase in the first four provinces and community consultations are underway in the other provinces. Infrastructure projects to date include water rehabilitation and catchment systems, clinics, staff houses for nurses and teachers, classrooms, and safety bridges. 187 villages will benefit from this work and survey results suggest an estimated 49,000 beneficiaries.

The program has also seen success in the second component which is focused on improving agricultural services. The RDP team has undertaken consultations and activities involving approximately 1,500 farmers in areas as diverse as crop improvement, livestock improvement, and labor.

Additionally, 157 officers from the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock have received training from RDP staff to improve their ability to deliver essential services to rural farmers. These trainings have covered issues including para-veterinary training to survey and data analysis instruction.

The additional financing will allow the RDP to sustain this progress and expand the program's scope in the Solomon Islands.