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Waisisi palm oil project is real: MAL

THE Waisisi-Wairokai Palm Oil Project is real says the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAL).

Ground work is ongoing at Wairokai where the nursery is located and transplanting of the first 9,000 seedlings is implemented.

MAL made the revelation for the sake of clarification and putting straight the information on the piece by Birau Wilson Saeni, Solomon Star issue No 6633 on Friday June 30, titled “Waisisi palm oil project is far from being real”, and again on front page Sunday Star, July 2, with a bold title “Waisisi queries oil palm project, Landowners: We want the truth from gov’t”.

On the outset the Waisisi Oil Palm Programme is as real as the five tribal lands that were registered to cater for this development.

These are Marapa Tribal Land (846.1 ha), Suruniai TL (689.9 ha), Ainapo TL (145.7 ha), Torohane TL (582.8 ha) and Otenimae TL (130.6 ha). A total registered land area of 2,395.1 hectares, out of a total gross area of 6,000 hectares.

For the sake of the reporter and the good pastor Andrew Mahoro of Surairo Village, Waisisi Oil Palm project and Wairokai oil palm nursery are one and the same.

Implementation of the project is ongoing in Wairokai rather than Waisisi due to the reason stated below.

MAL Permanent Secretary Jimi Saelea explained the fact is that, the land originally earmarked for the nursery in Waisisi was DISPUTED, as a result and thanks to the Rapusia Tribe, the nursery was relocated to and established in Wairokai instead, the communities of Waisisi and Wairokai are close to each other and the people are related thus the acceptance by the Rapusia Tribe of Wairokai to host the nursery.

“I am sure Pastor Andrew Mahoro may not be telling the TRUTH of not knowing what is happening on the ground with the Waisisi Oil Palm project.

“He should tell Solomon Star why the oil palm nursery was relocated to Wairokai, from the original plan to establish the nursery in Waisisi,” Saelea said.

He added that Pastor Mahoro should be consulting the Southern Maasina Oil Palm Growers Association (SMOPGA), and West AreAre Constituency Development Association Task Force (WACDATF), the bodies responsible for awareness on matters related to the oil palm project.

“These two bodies have members on the ground in Waisisi and Wairokai that can be consulted for updates in order to be informed on factual information.”

“So please my good Pastor and good Solomon Star reporter Saeni from Auki, do seek the TRUTH first from these two registered entities, and of course the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock to ensure untruths are not released in the public domain,” the MAL PS reiterates.

To clarify further, in order for the oil palm nursery seedlings at Wairokai to be transplanted by 32 farmers who have already been identified and their lands already cleared, the tractor mentioned was shipped to Wairokai on a chartered boat.

On the same trip various farming tools for distribution to farmers to facilitate oil palm planting were also sent.

The handover of the tractor and tools was done at Wairokai where the work is ongoing, and not in Honiara for one to be suspicious of the expenditure.

Pastor Mahoro has all the right to raise questions of progress, and benefits from the Waisisi Oil Palm programme.

The biggest benefit that Pastor Mahoro should be thankful of the Government for is the registration of his Marapa Tribal Land of 846.1 hectares.

The Registration of Land Title was handed to him on a plate so to speak.

Since the establishment of the oil palm nursery at Wairokai, around 30 casuals representing families have been employed up till now.

Their children’s school fees and other needs are met easily from the wages they received.

MAL hope that one day most families in West AreAre will benefit directly and indirectly from oil palm development when it will become the main economic driver in the southern region of Malaita Province.

It is only understandable that expectations are sometimes unreasonably bloated without reasoning the determinants that slows down the momentum following land registration.

It took almost two years for SIG through MAL and Ministry of Lands, Housing and Survey (MLHS) to facilitate land mobilization, surveying, and eventual registration of the 2,395.1 hectares, a costly feat that resource owners need only appreciate, and whatever comes next takes time and of course substantial financial resources to progress things going forward for the Waisisi Oil Palm programme.

The DCC Government through MAL is doing its best to ensure the 9,000 oil palm seedlings are planted and to continue assisting the farmers until an investor takes up full responsibility for the programme.

Saelea continues to explain that soliciting investors is not as easy as some may think, as most investors do have their basic requirements which must be provided up front. The oil palm industry is no exception.

“Various models of oil palm development will need to be considered in light of the various constraints related to topography (land ya hemi hil or flat), infrastructure (road and wharf stap?), production (soil hemi gud?), and marketing.

“The GPPOL model cannot be applied in Waisisi or elsewhere in the country unless land is 0 – 5% slope gradient. Thus it will take time to carefully determine which production model suits Waisisi and other potential oil palm growing areas in the country.”

He clarifies that for a crop that has a productive life of 25 to 35 years, planting it now will ensure when a mill is built, product to feed the mill is also ready. It is a chicken and egg argument.

Potential investors too will be informed of the actions taken by resource owners to initiating growing the crop in anticipation of a processing facility. Whether the investor is foreign or local does not really matter. What matters is that a lot of jobs will be created and cottage industries developed in rural areas.

The MAL PS calls on every one to have a positive mindset towards developing our nation.

“Waiting for the government to get the project rolling” is not the right mindset for development of this country. We should all be partners with the government to develop our resources, and then only can we “own” the development.”

“My advice to resource owners of Waisisi and elsewhere in respect of government programmes is to directly seek answers to questions from the right authorities. In this way answers to your queries will be provided to you directly and not through the media as is the case here.” Saelea said.