TIMELY INNOVATION TO AID AGRIBUSINESSES IN THE SOLOMON ISLANDS
A small Solomon Islands based project with the potential to be a game changer in the logistics and agribusiness sector has received a funding boost from the Australian Government. The project, entitled Less Than Container Load, will trial a platform that connects farmers, export consolidators, and other key stakeholders to streamline ‘field to market’ activities. Currently small and medium agricultural enterprises, who make up 60% of the agriculture sector in Solomon Islands, do not have access to export markets due to high freight costs.
The project originated from the Australian government funded program called Pacific Connect which is delivered by the International Centre for Democratic Partnerships (ICDP) and is part of the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade Pacific Step Up initiative. Pacific Connect is a program that promotes collaboration and business opportunities between Australia and the Pacific with the theme of ‘Australia-Pacific Connections for a Digital Future.’ Its emphasis is on sustainable development, with a focus on women and entrepreneurs.
In collaboration with the CEO, Solomon Islands Ports Authority, ICDP hosted a dialogue bringing a diverse group of individuals together from the Solomon Islands and Australia to solve one of his biggest headaches: for every five shipping containers that come into Solomon Islands full, only one will go out full.
Simone Pensko, Chief Executive, ICDP said “I am delighted that the Less Than Container Load project has been funded. It has been extremely rewarding to be able to bring a group of entrepreneurs from the Solomon Islands and Australia together to solve a problem that has the potential to transform agribusiness in the country.” Over the past 18 months ICDP has been supporting the team to develop the idea and find funding opportunities.
This is a timely initiative that can open new markets for many smaller producers of quality crops that are in demand internationally including cocoa, coffee, coconut and spices. It also provides sustainable economic development opportunities for businesses and communities in the Solomon Islands that continue to be disrupted by the effects of COVID19 on international supply chains.
Through an injection of funding by the Australian Government backed Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access Program – Export Business Recovery Initiative the project can now begin a pilot targeting 30,000 cocoa farmers (60% Women). James Kana, Project Manager and Managing Director, Ueniusu’unu Agribusiness Group in the Solomon Islands stated, “I am excited to lead a project that is jointly supported by Solomon Island and Australian businesses that are focused on improving the livelihoods of our local farmers and businesses through a sustainable innovative solution. If successfully implemented in the Solomon Islands, it is a solution that can be applied in other countries struggling with similar export challenges.”
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