Honiara SOLOMON IS, 10 May 2012/ SS/ ACP: On the occasion of Europe Day, 9 May, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and the Solomon Islands Government thanked the European Union (EU) for its support to many key activities in Solomon Islands.

Mr. Rence Sore, Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Mines and Energy, commented: “EU funding has helped Solomon Islands Government and its partner SPC implement valuable projects in many sectors to help Solomon Islanders improve their quality of life.”

The EU,within the framework ofits partnership withtheAfrican, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP)Group of States,has funded a large amount of important and high impact projects in the Solomon Islands that SPC has assisted the government to implement over the past few years.

These projects include The Development of Sustainable Tuna Fisheries in Pacific ACP Countries –Phase II (DevFish2) project, implemented by the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) with SPC. This has greatly helped the Ministry of Fisheries build the country’s ability to manage its own tuna fisheries.

Other recent EU-supported fisheries activities in the country include the National Tuna Fishery Status Report, observer training and training/assessment work relating to sea cucumbers including support for a national sea cucumber survey and management plan.

The EU also has funded two projects for building civil society that SPC is implementing to help reduce gender discrimination and strengthen knowledge of human rights in communities.

The EU Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) Planning Project has been effective in helping to address the water quality and management issues in Honiara.

In response to government requests, there will be an EU sponsored SIG/SPC Deep Sea Minerals Project, commencing with a national workshop later this month.

Another important EU-funded activity that SPC and the Ministries of Forests and Agriculture and Livestock are implementing is the Facilitating Agricultural Commodity Trade (FACT) project.

The overall objective of the FACT project is to promote and increase trade in Pacific members of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP).

The FACT project aims to increase competitiveness of potential exports by addressing and, where necessary, upgrading substandard components of the supply chain of selected products.

To achieve this, FACT has adopted the following approach: it provides technical and financial support and training to experienced farmers/established enterprises and their employees in the commercial farming sector to increase the range of their export products and make them more competitive. FACT also works with other stakeholders to address institutional constraints to trade (including access to credit).

It disseminates information regarding best practices in production systems to subsistence farming communities and resource owners to encourage the development of rural agricultural enterprises.

FACT has been supporting the Value Added Timber Association, the Nut Grower’s Association of Solomon Islands, Direct Management Limited and Maraghoto Holdings (exporters of dried nuts and other products) – all small associations or companies that already have some basic skills and experience in commercial production and marketing.

Direct Management Limited opened a cocoa consolidation warehouse for export on the road junction at Henderson with SPC and EU help and has received technical assistance from SPC to help develop better products for export and gain access to better markets.

It is a successful enterprise which is currently working toward fair trade exports of dried cocoa beans. It has developed a programme for its cocoa producers that provide free seedlings to planters who are willing to enter into partnership. The sharing of cocoa seedling is a way of ensuring its sustainability.

Maraghoto has received assistance from the SPC EU-funded FACT project in the form of processing facilities and much needed equipment for drying and processing oil from the canarium kernel nut.

However, a general assessment of the country’s nut resources is important to gauge the level of input required to make this industry more profitable.

The FACT project is supporting the Value Added Timber Association (VATA) with the Ministry of Forestry by helping Solomon Islands establish its own National Forest Stewardship Council Certification Standards as guidelines for exporting responsibly produced wood from a sustainable source through proper chain of custody.

This means helping small farmers harvest their timber sustainably and sell it for the best price to reputable buyers who support countries that are conserving their forest resources and managing their tree exports in a sustainable way.

In May 2011 the FACT project organised workshops in Honiara and Gizo for stakeholders to come together and work toward developing guidelines for timber leaving the country to qualify for ‘Verified Legal Origin’ and to track chain of custody.

This training is to determine guidelines for Forest Stewardship Council Small and Low Intensity Managed Forest certification. The next step is for Solomon Islands to undergo an internationally conducted audit in July.

With the SPC Solomon Islands Country Office and EU-funded FACT staff on the ground, Solomon Islands is receiving much needed technical assistance to achieve national certification. The Natural Resource Development Foundation, Marovo Lagoon Sustainable Timber, Kongukolo and other timber processors from Choiseul and Vella la Vella have received training to develop a standard operating procedure for timber processing to achieve the premium grade for export. This procedure could be incorporated into the standards for the national certification.

The successful EU funded SPC FACT project is merging into a new EU funded project (IACT) this year. SPC is gearing up to focus on increasing the number of small farmers and exporters receiving assistance and the number of products they produce.

An invitation for expressions of interest for the IACT project for support to small farmers with their existing enterprises or work received more than a hundred applications from various enterprises in Solomon Islands.

Selection of the successful enterprise will be done in tandem with the Ministries of Forests and Agriculture and Livestock.

Dr. Jimmie Rodgers, Director General of SPC, commented “The support of the EU via SPC to Solomon Islands has had a notable positive impact on the lives of the people of the country.”

– Solomon Star