The World Bank's Board of Executive Directors approved today a US$3 million grant in additional financing for the Solomon Islands Rural Development Program (RDP), which will continue to support community-led projects for priority infrastructure and agriculture services in rural areas, including in the remote Outer Islands.
Rural development is especially important in Solomon Islands, a country comprised of nearly 1,000 islands, 300 of which are inhabited, scattered over more than 1.35 million square kilometers of ocean. The vast majority of the population lives in rural areas, which can be several days' travel by boat to the nearest urban center where many services are located.
Since 2007, the RDP has been working with communities to develop key infrastructure projects such as health posts, classrooms, teachers' accommodation, and water supply. It is also providing training and advice in agriculture and increasing access to finance for rural businesses so they can expand and develop.
"Improving access to basic services in rural areas is particularly challenging in the Solomon Islands, given its highly dispersed geography," said Erik Johnson, Acting Country Manager for the World Bank in Solomon Islands. "RDP has proven an effective model for channeling resources directly to communities so that they can drive development and make investments that are more likely to be sustainable," he added.
To date, across the provinces of Western, Choiseul, Malaita, Temotu, Isabel, Makira-Ulawa, Central Islands, and Guadalcanal:
- Completed community projects are already benefitting 65,000 people, more than 1 in 10 Solomon Islanders with improved access to critical services such as water supply, health centers, and schools.
- More than 29,000 farmers, in all 8 provinces, have received extension advice or training, in growing subsistence and commercial crops.
- Supplemental equity provided by RDP leveraged SBD$6 from commercial banks for every SBD$1 invested by the program. A total of 58 rural businesses benefitted from increased access to finance.
This additional financing will enable the program to continue to expand to new communities and build on existing investments to meet its goal of reaching 300,000 people - more than half the total population - by its completion in early 2015.
The RDP follows a community-driven development approach that relies on community consultation and management. This also ensures community prioritization of needs, co-financing and execution of the projects. Project selection is based on an inclusive and transparent process at the ward and provincial levels.
The program is being implemented by the Ministry for Development Planning and Aid Coordination, and the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock.
It has so far received financial support totalling US$31.59 million from the Government of Australia, the European Commission, the International Fund for Agriculture Development, and the World Bank. With additional financing, the total project investment will exceed US$37 million.
In 2013, the Solomon Islands Government contributed counterpart financing to the program for the first time, totalling SBD$30 million (approx. US$4 million).
Press Release: World Bank