There is growing demand for fresh fruits and vegetables in Honiara, and farmers are calling for support to boost productivity.
At the MK Farm, located in the interior of North West Guadalcanal, guava fruit trees grow in abundance - the fresh scent of sun-dried guava leaves greets visitors.
The owner, John Maeli, says while demand for guava has been growing in Honiara productivity levels has dropped. He says there are not enough trained farmers who have simple yet important skills such as nursery, planting and pruning of guava - which ensures good yield and harvest.
Mr Maeli says MK farm started in 2007, and credits the Taiwan farm for its growth, especially through trainings and advice.
“This farm benefited from the Taiwan farm, they provided training and improved the skills and knowledge of my labourers.
“Since the Taiwan farm closed my labourers no longer receive training, so there is poor quality and low productivity in the farm.
“I currently employ more than twenty labourers and ten of them are permanent employees, so I train and pass on whatever knowledge I have.”
He admits that even with his experience there are limitations to what he knows.
He says to succeed as a farmer, especially if one wants to specialize in a single crop or fruit, good quality standards must be met.
“This can only be achieved through ongoing training, to understand how to meet such standards,” Maeli said.
Mr Maeli says the demand for fruits like guava has been growing in Honiara, compared to previous years.
“Hospital, hotels and restaurants always place orders, and at the same time we also sell at the local market because there is high demand”.
He says the kind of support farmers like him want is ongoing training, one that would help boost productivity. He also believes that there are other better high yielding guava varieties suited to the climate but requires research.
He says if local farmers are supported there is a good chance more people will return to such healthy food and eating habits, particularly with the rise of non-communicable diseases or NCD.
“Our brothers and sisters who suffer from NCD at the national referral hospital are being encouraged by health experts to eat more local foods and fruits, but how can we meet their demand? We need the government to support local farmers,” he says.
He says government needs to find ways to fill the gap and suggests that this be done through the Solomon Islands National University (SINU).
“Help us in practical ways, maybe send students to our farms for practical work, or help us farmers with ongoing training – things like that.”