The first National Drought Policy Workshop and Consultations hosted by the Government of Solomon Islands was held this month.

The workshop and consultations brought together national stakeholders from sectors in the Solomon Islands together with the Solomon Islands Meteorological Service (SIMS) and the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) to work towards developing a National Drought Policy for the country.

The main objectives of the workshop were to provide an enabling environment for all the national stakeholders to discuss important elements that should be considered in the National Drought Policy while aligning it to existing frameworks. The workshop also began the process of establishing an effective National Drought Policy that implements early warning systems and vulnerability and impact assessments as well as effective drought preparedness, mitigation, response and communication plans.

This was also the opportunity to address the needs of national stakeholder and focus on strengthening institutional capacity in order to deal more effectively with natural hazards such as droughts.

Mr. Chanel Iroi, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Disaster and Meteorology (MECCDM) in Solomon Islands, reiterated the importance of a drought policy contributing to the overarching government development strategy and called for collaboration between the sectors to contribute to the development of the national policy.

"Drought is an environmental hazard the affects the lives of our people and many sectors of the country from the economy, agriculture, forestry, health, and water. Therefore, the workshop was a very important opportunity to develop a policy that guides Solomon Islands in drought preparation and response. This aligns to the central theme of the National Development Strategy 2011-2020 to build better lives for All Solomon Islanders. "

It was during the workshop that stakeholders shared their experiences with drought and discussed key policies and existing disaster management and communication frameworks already in place.

The Director of the Solomon Island Meteorological Services (SIMS) highlighted some of the challenges managing drought information and response.

"Drought is a slow onset event that needs a different approach to managing its information and responding to it. It is not the same as tropical cyclones and tsunamis where there is a definite time-bound element to the event. This workshop is the opportunity to draw from existing frameworks and assemble all of our ideas together in order to develop a national drought policy that enable us to respond better to future droughts," said Mr David Hiba, Director of the Solomon Islands Meteorological Services.

The National Drought Workshop included representatives from the Solomon Islands Meteorological and Hydrological Services, Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, National Disaster Management Office, Climate Change Division, Water Authority, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Fisheries, as well as other national, non-governmental and community stakeholders.

"This National Drought Workshop began the process of developing a national drought policy for Solomon Islands. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) provided guidance to the national stakeholders during the workshop and over the next several months to develop this national drought policy. This national drought policy should be made unique to the specific stakeholder needs and governmental structure of the country. After this policy is finalised, the national government of Solomon Islands will have full ownership of this national drought policy," said Robert Stefanski, Chief Agricultural Meteorologist from the WMO.

The workshop, held from 5 – 9 September 2016, was organised and conducted by the Solomon Islands Meteorological Service, the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), and funded by the Department of Environment-Canada through Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS) Project.

Press Release: SPREP