The Solomon Islands is comprised of nearly a thousand islands, scattered over a sea area of more than 1.35 million square kilometers. The vast majority of the population lives in rural areas. Efforts by the government to extend development to rural areas have been hampered by geographical isolation, high transportation costs and budget constraints. Solomon Islands experienced low level conflict in 1998-2003. With the support of international development partners, the country is about to transition from the post-conflict recovery phase. However, capacity to improve delivery of public services and invest in health and education remains a major challenge for the country, and progress against the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) has been mixed. Solomon Islands is off-track on four of the seven goals, and has regressed against the health-related goals.
The RDP aims to raise or improve the living standards of rural households. Driven by local communities, it is establishing transparent and inclusive mechanisms to identify, select and implement small-scale infrastructure projects through grants, funding things like health posts, teachers' accommodation, water supply and footbridges. The project is increasing the capacity of existing agricultural institutions to provide essential support services, such as extension services, veterinary services and quarantine. The program also aims to revitalize the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, which was badly affected by the years of unrest during the tensions, and to strengthen its collaboration with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), the private sector and other agricultural service providers. Lastly, through financing, training and technical assistance to rural businesses, the RDP is facilitating the growth and development of rural enterprises. This support is enhancing government initiatives to expand access to finance and stimulate private sector investment in rural communities.
As of July 2011, the project had been rolled out to eight of the nine provinces in the Solomon Islands and had made significant progress towards achieving its project targets:
Component 1: Local infrastructure and service delivery (2009-June 2011)
- 207 infrastructure projects, including classroom buildings, health clinics, water supply systems, and foot bridges, underway or completed, benefiting over 93,000 people. The 207 community infrastructure projects are broken down into 7 categories:
- Health sector – 25
- Education sector – 46
- Transport & access – 6
- General economics & community affairs – 2
- Community housing & amenities – 91
- General public services – 14
- Recreation, culture & religion – 23
- 80 percent of villages surveyed said that either “all” or “most” of the community members participated in project selection;
- in 70 percent of villages surveyed, women said that “all” or “most” of the women in the community participated in project selection;
Component 2: Improved agriculture services (2009 – June 2011)
- 231 agriculture extension and training activities have benefited about 7,000 farmers in six provinces;
- 20 percent of households in target provinces have changed agricultural practices, including varieties as a result of advice received;
Component 3: Rural business development (2009 – June 2011)
- To date, 37 rural businesses received supplementary equity financing totaling Solomon Islands dollar SBD$5.5 million and a total of SBD$10.9 million in loans, as well as assorted training and technical assistance;
- 30 percent increase in turnover of business;
All components: Women beneficiaries & participation in decision structures in 4 provinces, Malaita, Choiseul, Western, Isabel (2009 – June 2011)
- 41% of women beneficiaries of cycle 1 projects in the 4 initial target provinces
- 31% of female participation in village level sub-implementation committees
- 40% of female participation in ward development committees
- 50% of female participation in provincial allocation and review committees
Approved in November 2007, the overall cost of the project is estimated at US$30.4 million. About half of the funds (US$15.3 million) are for community infrastructure, with about another 25 percent for improved agricultural services (US$7.8 million). About 20 percent of the financing is in the form of International Development Association (IDA) grants, with another 10 percent from the Global Food Crisis Response Program, and almost 70 percent coming from a combination of other donors (International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD), the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) and the European Commission (EC)). The remaining funds are coming from government and counterpart funding from local communities.
The RDP is being implemented by the Ministry of Development Planning and Aid Coordination and the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, in collaboration with the provincial governments. The grants are managed and projects are implemented by village-level committees. AusAID and IFAD participate actively in project supervision. All donors in the Solomon Islands that are implementing small, community grant projects meet on a regular basis to exchange experience and to coordinate. The system set up by RDP has attracted significant co-financing from bi-lateral donors (AusAID and the EC) as well as another multilateral bank, IFAD. Provincial government and national parliament members have begun to co-finance community infrastructure activities and this is expected to expand in the coming years.
Toward the Future
The RDP has been prepared as the first phase of a long term (10-year) program to support the Solomon Islands national development goals. After significant investments in establishing a system for delivering rural services, a second phase of the RDP is planned to continue to expand to new communities and to build on existing investments. An analysis of options for institutionalizing funds and service implementation for rural communities is planned for 2012-2013. This analysis will help to determine what happens after phase two.