The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Rural Development (MRD) Dr Samson Viulu on Thursday had a fruitful roundtable discussion with His Excellency the British High Commissioner to Solomon Islands and Nauru Thomas Coward.
Held at the British High Commission Office, the meeting was made possible following an invitation from the British High Commissioner’s office in Honiara.
During the brief meeting, the Permanent Secretary and the British High Commissioner discussed various potential areas of bilateral cooperation and support towards the ministry’s rural development priorities.
In his introductory remark, Dr Viulu acknowledged Commissioner Coward for the invitation and said his ministry is looking forward to working closely with the British High Commission in priority areas that require bilateral support.
British High Commissioner to Solomon Islands H.E. Thomas Coward shakes hands with MRD Permanent Secretary Dr. Samson Viulu after the successful discussion
Dr Viulu also used the opportunity to inform Commissioner Coward on his ministry’s priorities and goals and the current key reforms and policies that MRD is working on.
He said that the two top priority project areas of the ministry are; income generating and social and economic infrastructures.
The two also indicated willingness to explore cooperative opportunities in the productive sector particularly agriculture, fishery, tourism and forestry with the purpose to better benefit rural people and also guarantee people participate in socio-economic activities to improve their livelihoods.
On Constituency Development Policy Dr Viulu told Commissioner Coward that a task force has been established to provide guidance and design and development of the new policy.
“This new policy will help inform the review of the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) Act 2013 and the development of the CDF regulation,” he added.
Other key reforms discussed are;
- Restructuring and Functional Review to streamline internal processes.
- Amendments to the CDF Act 2013
- Strengthening of Monitoring and Evaluation standards for CDF planning, management and implementation.
- Training of Constituency Officials on Project Proposal writing, Project Management and Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation and reporting.
On Monitoring and Evaluation, Dr Viulu told Commissioner Coward that MRD is now working on establishing a standardized reporting template for effective Monitoring and Evaluation of the CDF and possible donor-funded projects. This is part of strengthening the Monitoring and Evaluation work of the ministry.”
Mr Viulu also briefed Commissioner Coward on plans to establish Constituency Development Centres in the 50 constituencies with plans to audit the CDF, but he said the ministry’s Monitoring and Evaluation is one of the priorities that need strengthening first.
H.E British High Commissioner Thomas Coward and Permanent Secretary Dr. Samson Viulu during the brief discussion at the British High Commission Office
“MRD is of the view that a stronger Monitoring and Evaluation will hopefully attract additional assistance from keen development partners to further develop our rural areas,” he added.
The Permanent Secretary also thanked the British High Commissioner for his government’s continuous support towards the development aspirations towards the Solomon Islands Government and its people and would like to see more exports of Solomon Islands high value crops to the UK to boost rural development.
In response, Commissioner Coward thanked Dr Viulu for accepting his invitation to meet with him and to discuss considerations that would influence future collaborative efforts towards rural development in the rural areas through MRD development programmes.
Commissioner Coward said the reforms and priorities as highlighted by the Permanent Secretary are impressive and ambitious and wishes MRD all the success.
The Commissioner also informed the Permanent Secretary that chocolate made from Solomon Islands Cacao is now being sold in one of UK’s most famous department stores, the HARRODS in London.
He said this is an example of the potential that Solomon Islands has in agriculture and that there are many other potential products that the country can export to the UK, one is coffee.
He also emphasized the importance of diversifying development opportunities in the Solomon Islands as a positive way forward to engage more people in economic activities and in doing so empower locals.
He assured Dr Viulu that his office will continue to discuss with MRD and would consider providing support where appropriate.
MRD Media release