The province of Malaita, where many people rely on subsistence fishing and farming, faces many challenges including increasingly depleted marine resources, limited access to markets for agricultural goods, and pressures from population growth.
“The lagoons of Langalanga and Lau are heavily populated and they have limited access to land so depend more on marine resources. With this population putting pressure on their fisheries they are seeing fish catches decrease,” explains Daykin Harohau from WorldFish; AAS Hub manager in Malaita.
Recognizing these challenges to food and nutrition security the CGIAR Research Program on Aquatic Agricultural Systems (AAS) will pursue community-based approaches to agricultural and fisheries research in development that target the poorest and most vulnerable rural households in the region.
“People inland have had what have previously been sustainable agricultural practices that were able to provide for subsistence, but now they need to find ways to make their gardens cater for everything the household needs – food and income,” adds Daykin.
AAS will take a participatory action research approach and work with communities and the Solomon Islands’ national government and provincial governments, brokering partnerships not only within the fisheries sector but also across sectors such as in agriculture, gender equity and development. It’s an approach that resonates with the program’s partners and participants at program design workshops such as Juan Ceballos-Muller from the International Centre for Development Orientated Research in Agriculture.
“There is evidence that development works when people own the process, that is the difference to development that has provoked dependency in a lot of countries,” says Juan.
“Local people need to become the change. What I hope to see in these communities is that this AAS process will bring out from the communities champions to take development even further themselves,” he adds.
AAS aims to promote gender equality in communities by working with both men and women. In Solomon Islands, women are not well represented in conventional places of power and authority – parliament and traditional chiefly governance systems. Due to cultural norms and beliefs, women also lack access to resources and services like training programs, which can help to increase the productivity of their farms and ability to earn income.
“AAS has a big emphasis on gender. Agricultural research often shies away from complex areas involving social norms and attitudes, with many identifying this as a social change agenda.
“We now realize that if you don’t address causes of inequalities leading to differential access to technologies, markets, inputs and services for men and women, or understand how decisions are made in the household, you will not achieve a sustainable outcome,” explains Ranjitha Puskar, AAS senior scientist.
By utilizing a participatory action research approach that focuses on gender equality and promoting partnerships with local, national and international organizations, AAS aims to improve incomes, food and nutrition security for the men and women who depend on aquatic agricultural systems in Solomon Islands.