Food Security Threatened By Bad Weather In Solomon Islands

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East Makira experiencing severe out-of-season storms

By George Mackenzie

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Aug. 6, 2015) – The uncommon severe weather pattern, unusual high tides, extreme rough seas, strong currents and daily heavy downpour accompanied by gale-force winds that continue to ravage Makira Ulawa Province since late April has shown no sign of subsiding.

And this had subsequently threatened food security and imposed greater health risk, a dire situation of extreme consequences best described by Chief John Kikisia of Tawaroga Village, North Star Harbour, as "the extreme reality of climate change a situation that should pave the way for new directions by National Disaster Management Office (NDMO), Provincial Disaster Offices, provincial governments and the national government".

"Natural disasters common to us are cyclones, drought and heavy rains but they occur at their preordained seasons and to which we are so accustomed, however, the natural calamities occurring now are unusual therefore the NDMO must also be very conscious of these mind boggling changes in weather and their impacts on the livelihood of our communities," Chief Kikisia stressed.

Reports reaching Government Communication Unit and as confirmed by Government Communication Officer on tour in Makira recently, George Mackenzie revealed that food shortage is expected as from mid-August in most parts of North and South Star Harbour including the two islands of Santa Ana and Santa Catalina.

People from Santa Ana and Santa Catalina at present are living mostly on the breadfruits that have reached their season in July, however, the heavy rain and winds have caused extensive damages to these fruit trees, and over dependency on these fruit trees by the people have already shortened the supply.

"Fortunately, for us the breadfruit season this year has been good because we have experienced shortage in supply of our staple food which is sweet potato, a problem aggravated by the daily heavy rainfall in the last four months beginning in April which prevented people from making gardens", according to Hendrix of Gupuna, Santa Ana.

"It is utterly hopeless to plant a new potato garden during rain time and for those gardens that have already been planted they will not produce high yield adequate to support a family for longer periods because you need minimal rain and plenty of sunshine to plant and to expect better yield on the island", Hendrix explained.

Similar sentiments expressing the dire consequences of the worsening weather in relation to food security on Santa Catalina have also been reported by George Qwarea who actually estimated severe food shortage on the island by September.

According to Chief Francis Sufaka of Gupuna, Santa Ana, the vulnerability of constant adequate local food supply on Santa Ana and Santa Catalina has started way back in 1971 on the aftermath of cyclone Ursula which literally left the two islands desolate of any crawling vine, grass or trees for months.

A bleak reality that is still felt four decades on and has been further aggravated by the rising population as well as their unwillingness to migrate even to mainland Makira where many are married to and where they could have opted for settlement.

But as Chief John Kikisia puts it: "These climatic changes are felt everywhere and even now we the people of Tawaroga and North Star Harbour as well as South Star Harbour have lost much of our taro gardens, potatoes and bananas as a result of the incessant heavy rainfall.

The training went on for four months now which soaked up banana trees, causing taro and other root crops to rot quickly and for this urgent reason we call upon the responsible authorities to help address our food needs".

He added that it is just not possible to do gardening work at the slopes and on the flat areas at the edge of the hills because of the risk of landslides after so many months of torrential rainfall.

Meanwhile, a team from the Makira Provincial Disaster Office has already undertaken a visit to Santa Ana and Santa Catalina in July where the officers have met with the chiefs and the Provincial Assembly Member for Santa Ana Hon. George Gapiara.

In his remarks George Gapiara highlighted the impending food crisis to which he had already prepared a delegation comprised of chiefs and leaders of Santa Ana to be at KiraKira if the provincial disaster team had not come to Santa Ana.

"Therefore, I am very grateful that the Head of the Provincial Disaster Office in KiraKira has travelled all the way to Santa Catalina and Santa Ana despite the rough seas and rain with to be actually on the ground to witness my people’s plight".

The provincial disaster team have also been given a report on the effects of the 2nd July 5.8 magnitude earthquake, the looming critical food shortage situation in both islands and they have also made their independent report of the situation.

The people of these respective communities have requested the Provincial Disaster Office and the National Disaster Management Office to immediately undertake remedial measures in regards to food supply as the bad weather situation persists in East Makira region in particular.

For the moment the people are awaiting any positive outcome of the visit and assessment undertaken by the provincial disaster office in KiraKira and in as far as they are concerned the situation has already reached a level requiring immediate support which is necessary to avoid it developing further into a crisis situation.

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