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Rural Development Program Begins In Four Provinces

Community-driven rural development program begins in four Provinces

The Solomon Islands Government has taken an important step in rural development and an improvement in rural livelihoods - based on communities identifying their own needs - with a comprehensive program beginning in four Provinces.

The implementation on Monday 18 of the Solomon Islands Government Rural Development Program (RDP) puts into practice the government's policies for rural development.

The Minister for Development Planning and Aid Coordination, Honourable Steve Abana, said programs like the RDP herald a different approach to development recognising that community participation and Provincial leadership are paramount.

"This program is centred in the Provinces - from planning and setting priorities to implementation - with Provincial administrations supported by the RDP to improve delivery of services," Mr Abana said.

"Stronger Provincial administration, use of local systems and service delivery including NGOs and the private sector will help us get affordable quality services and infrastructure to rural households. If we improve service delivery and strengthen the rural economy, we improve the spiritual and material contribution of rural communities to the nation."

Features of the Rural Development Program

1. Infrastructure and services. The first objective is to increase access to infrastructure and services in rural areas through participatory planning, budgeting and implementation mechanisms at community and provincial level. Communities will be encouraged to recommend and develop small projects that meet their needs, developing skills in the process.

2. Improved agricultural service delivery. The second objective is to build the capacity of the Ministry of Agriculture to deliver services in the provinces in partnership with service providers: NGOs, community groups and the private sector.

3. Rural business development. Rural businesses that create jobs and provide market opportunities for rural producers will be stimulated by the provision of equity finance and support grants for rural entrepreneurs.

The RDP is a five-year project implemented by the Government and supported by the World Bank, the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) and the European Union (EU). In the first two years, the RDP will work in Choiseul, Western, Malaita and Temotu Provinces, beginning in all other Provinces in 2010.

The Provincial Secretaries of Western and Temotu Provinces today signed MOUs with the RDP reflecting the central role of Provinces in delivering the program. MOUs with Malaita and Choiseul Provinces will be signed shortly. RDP work has begun and Provincial staff is being appointed.

World Bank Agriculture Economist, Ms Marianne Grosclaude, said the program aims to improve rural livelihoods through activities identified and driven by rural households and communities, supported by the Provinces and Government.

"The success of the RDP will only be measured in rural areas and by rural Solomon Islanders, when those rural households and communities are able to fully engage in the implementation of the program in the coming months and can, eventually, see improvements in their livelihoods," Ms Grosclaude said.

The EU Chargé d'Affairs, Dr Abdoul Aziz Mbaye, said the European Commission had a long term commitment to sustainable rural development in Solomon Islands.

"The development of the ARDS was an important component in this partnership with Government and the investment of substantial Stabex funds in the RDP is a natural next step," Dr Mbaye said. "We are delighted to be able to work with Government, civil society, and the World Bank and RAMSI to make this a reality."

RAMSI Development Coordinator Paul Kelly said that the project aims to help bridge the gap between governments and the communities they serve by empowering governments to fund local projects.

"People have been patiently waiting for development to reach rural communities", Mr Kelly said. "RAMSI's support of the Rural Development Project is part of a wider package of assistance to government, working in partnership with other donors, to develop a base of skills and infrastructure for government, provincial government and communities to build upon."

The Rural Development Program carries out some of the recommendations of the government's landmark Agricultural and Rural Development Strategy (ARDS) released last April. The ARDS recommendations included decentralised activities, responding to community demand, use of local services and building the capacity of local institutions, and an understanding that different places have different needs.

ENDS

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