Lionel Maeliu has completed a special house for heathen farmers from East Kwaio to attend training in organic farming at Guanafiu Farmer school. Farmers from these communities were very interested to send their youths for training to improve their agriculture when Lionel visited them on two occasions on walking tour to do awareness on organic farming.
Heathen or traditional communities are some of the most disadvantaged in solomon islands with little access to services or opportunities. Many wanted to learn more from Lionels farmer school at Guanafiu in central kwara’ae. But due to custom rules it is not possible for them to stay in the same house as those who do not follow the traditional ways. This is particularly a problem for women who must follow strict traditional rules.
So the Guanafiu Farmer School, with support from Kastom gaden, decided to build a special custom house following traditional rules for these farmers to stay in where they do not have to mix with others. To begin with it will be used by women from East Kwaio to join short training workshops who who will walk for over a day through rugged mountains to reach the centre.
This is the first time that agriculture training has been tailored to meet the needs of traditional ‘heathen’ communities – estimated to number more than 5000 people in bush communities in Malaita. Farmers will be trained in soil management, contour planting to control erosion, composting, nursery establishment, planting of trees and conservation of forest, improved management of local breeds of chickens. These skills are needed as traditional agriculture is under pressure in East Kwaio.
There are increasing problems with soil erosion, pest and disease and declining crop diversity, poor nutrition among children and high maternal mortality, as well as problems with pig health and diseases. Guanafiu farmer school is beginning the task to solve these problems through farmer to farmer extension. Kastom Gaden’s food security program is supported by AusAID.