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Malaita farmers query cattle project

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THE cattle farmers in Malaita Province are still waiting for the much-awaited cattle rehabilitation programme.

The cattle project ran into controversy since the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock approved it in 2007. That was after money for the project Taiwan provided were allegedly diverted.

Spokesperson for Malaita Cattle farmers John Nika said to date approximately 300 hectares of fenced pasture were rehabilitated (which is now reverting to bush) with an approximate total stock of 200 herds of cattle

Mr Nika said farmers have rehabilitated their fences, pasture and stock yards in preparation for the cattle that will be provided by the government from “overseas”,

He said this was done following instructions given by the Agriculture extension officer at Auki.

“In complying with instructions by the provincial livestock extension officers, and with no financial support from the government, these farmers sold whatever stock they had left in their fences to meet the cost of rehabilitating their fences, pasture and yards,” he said.

“Sadly, today five years down the track we are still waiting for the government’s much publicised cattle rehabilitation.”

The Government last year signed an agreement with Australia Rural Exports Pty Ltd (Austrex) to supply these cattle.

But the cattle could not be shipped due to the financial crisis.

Mr Nika said due to the delay, the farmers have came up with a resolution for the Government to take heed of.

That is the Government needs to explain where the $10 million given by Taiwan.

It needs to remove the livestock extension officers from Malaita and replace them with those that are appropriately trained people.

The Government needs to consult the cattle farmers to help each other devise and adopt rehabilitation strategies that are practical to Malaitan conditions.

And the farmers urge politicians to stop using them to fund raise for their scrupulous activities.

Director of Livestock, Barnabas Kenga told the Solomon Star he would not comment further on this project.

Mr Kenga said his office will only be dealing with farmers directly rather than talking to media.