Women of Nusatuva focus on food security
With the onset of COVID-19, access to the tiny coastal town of Gizo which is located in the Western Province of the Solomon Islands was restricted by the State of Emergency which was declared by the Solomon Islands Government in March.
International flights into Honiara were suspended and towns like Gizo had stopped accepting daily flights of tourists.
“No guests were allowed in the country due to restrictions and this has really affected our tourism sector,” Melson said.
The financial impact on women market vendors had also escalated due to health concerns and social distancing measures.
“We decided to stop our savings scheme,” says Rindah Melson.
“The management committee decided to stop savings for a while because of the state of emergency announced concerning the pandemic, and with social distancing, women market vendors found and still finds life challenging.”
“Their products sold at the market at Ringi wharf and at Ringi station is still very slow, and this is due to many people being laid off and not many customers buying their products due to social distancing, thus leading to low cash flow.”
Melson added that during the lock down, most of the money earned from products sold at the market are saved in preparation for future lock down.
“Most women now are concentrating on making gardens in preparation of any future lockdown or shortage of imported food supplies,” she added.
Though they have stopped their savings activity during the state of emergency, the women know how to keep their money.
“In the midst of all of this, I worry about my community and the overcrowding that has resulted from the influx of people flowing from Honiara.”
“People in the community are concerned that the gardens they have are not enough to feed everyone in a household and this is a huge concern for mothers who do not have big gardens,” Melson said.
She added that while people are still making gardens, it will take a while for crops to mature thus placing pressure on coastal marine resources.
“With the influx of people from Honiara, we still need to raise awareness on the marine resources management in Nusatuva.”
Melson says with the announcement on the lifting of restrictions by the Solomon Islands government, the people of Nusatuva have started returning to work on a casual basis but due to low cash flow, mothers have no option but are also trying to work as casual workers at the Kolombangara Forestry Plantation limited.
“I am hopeful that we are also resilient as we are all born on an island where resilience is in our blood,” Melson said.
The women’s economic empowerment work is part of an integrated sustainable coastal communities project jointly funded by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) and Simplot Australia via their seafood brand John West, in association with WWF-Netherlands. The project works to improve the livelihoods of coastal communities in the Solomon Islands, who traditionally rely on the ocean as their main source of protein for their livelihoods. It has also trained local women to set up micro-businesses such as small loan schemes to diversify traditional income stream.