The Kastom Garden Association (KGA) and the Australia Government have signed a three year agreement that will provide thousands of families throughout the country with improved varieties of food crops and advice on effective farming methods and family nutrition.

Respected local NGO, Kastom Garden Association (KGA) and the Australian Government have signed a three-year agreement that will provide thousands of families throughout Solomon Islands with improved varieties of food crops and advice on more effective farming methods and family nutrition.

The SBD20.18 million (AUD 2.53 million) agreement extends previous Australian support over the past two years for Kastom Garden's five-year program called Strengthening Food Security for Rural Livelihoods in Solomon Islands Program.

"Our program aims to improve the amount of quality food grown in rural areas and to support income generation activities for Solomon Islanders", said Kastom Garden Manager, Mr Clement Hadosaia.

AusAID Counsellor for Development Cooperation, Peter O'Connor, said Kastom Garden was an organisation that improved the lives of Solomon Islanders by using local ideas and local expertise delivered at the local level.

"Kastom Garden is helping Solomon Islands to adapt their agriculture to the changing environment through improved methods and more productive crop and livestock varieties," he said. "Importantly, it delivers its services at the village level where more than 80 percent of Solomon Islanders live."

Kastom Garden supports Solomon Islanders through its Plant Material Network and by providing training programs for people in both rural and urban areas. The Plant Material Network provides members with improved seed and rootstock varieties and vital agricultural information.

Kastom Garden works through partnerships with around 100 community based organizations. Some are formal organizations like churches and Rural Training Centers, Others are community-based organizations such as the Rokotanikeni Women's' Association in southern Malaita.

Kastom Garden provides training programs to these organizations on subjects such as plant and livestock husbandry, farming methods, pest and disease management, nutrition, health and use of simple technologies suited to local conditions. Services reach some of the most isolated areas of the country.

Under the new agreement with AusAID, Kastom Garden will provide training over the next three years to an estimated 11,000 people while increasing the number of households with access to its basic services through the planting network to at least 30,000.

"Our work is seeing young people in provincial areas across the country getting involved in farming and selling their produce to markets," Mr Hadosaia said. "This creates a local and healthy food source, and gives young people the chance to improve their own lives with their own hands."

Kastom Garden also works with a range of international partners such as the Australian Center for International Agricultural Research and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community.