East Malaita Constituency Embarks on Rice Project
East Malaita Constituency (EMC) has commenced initial discussions with Aluta Basin landowning tribes on the national government’s proposal towards establishing rice farming for interested farmers within the Aluta Basin in Malaita Province.
In a meeting held at Tatali growth center on 20 August 2022, landowners have expressed their support for the project proposal to their Member of Parliament who is also the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for the Ministry of Infrastructure Development, Hon Manasseh Maelanga and the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Rural Development (MRD) Dr Samson Viulu.
Aluta Basin was before earmarked for the palm oil project, a national project of the government, but due to some challenges and other environmental issues, the project has not progressed, thus triggering the government with the plan to switch to the rice project. Landowners hold Perpetual Estate (PE) titles to their lands.
The landowning tribes were very supportive of the idea, however, told their MP Hon Maelanga that they do not want to repeat what had happened to the Aluta oil palm project but want the rice project to eventuate and accomplish to boost our economy and rice production in East Malaita as well as provide social and economic opportunities for rural people.
They said that they are ready and keen to dialogue with the government on the proposal as a substitute to the oil palm project and assured Hon Maelanga that they are looking forward to working in partnership with the national government on the proposal to boost the country’s economy.
“We want this proposal because this is the type of project that would boost our economy as well as create job opportunities for our rural people.
“This is the right direction for us to boost rice production in East Malaita. There are farmers who plant rice in our area but on a small scale,” they said.
Permanent Secretary for MRD Dr Samson Viulu was impressed with the level of support the landowners had shown towards the proposed rice project.
Dr Viulu said that the level of support expressed by the landowning tribes speaks volume that they are ready and willing to work with the government on the interest.
He acknowledged the landowners for their support and encouraged them to work together with Hon Maelanga and the government towards the project.
He said nothing is hard if we put our hands together and work together in partnership towards one goal.
Meanwhile, the Permanent Secretary explained that one reason why the palm oil project has not progressed was due to environmental requirements under the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).
He added that the palm oil industry is not allowed on forest land or land that still maintains their forest.
“So, Aluta Basin has no suitable land for the palm oil industry except for Guadalcanal because Guadalcanal Province has a huge grassland where palm oil can grow well on it.
“A separate discussion he had with the existing palm oil investor in the country suggests that the land elevation of some areas of the Aluta Basin may be too steep for palm oil development.
“It is likely that both paddy and upland rice varieties will be pursued for the Aluta Basin area,” he said.
Hon Maelanga thanked the landowners and assured them that as their parliamentary representative he will make sure their interest is brought to the national government.
“There are investors interested in supporting our country with rice projects, and it needs partnership from landowners and the government to work towards it,” Hon Maelanga said.
The rice project once eventuated will not only benefit Aluta Basin Landowning Tribes in ward 15 but will create employment opportunities for people in East Malaita region with potential of expansion to ward 16 as far as Kwaibaita region.