Sep 16, 2019 Government & Politics Comments Off on Taiwanese agricultural mission wins Solomon Islands people’s hearts
Honiara, Solomon Islands-A Taiwanese agricultural mission stationed in the Solomon Islands as part of a cooperation program between the two countries has won the hearts of many local people as it has helped to improve animal and crop husbandry skills for over three decades.
Whenever the islanders see one of the mission's vehicles on the road, they will give it the thumbs up and say "Oh, Taiwan," said Hsueh Hsuan-ping (???), head of the Taiwan Technical Mission in the Solomon Islands in a Saturday interview with CNA.
This kind of friendly gesture is not common among Solomon people, who, according to Hsueh, normally keep foreigners at a distance, although the South Pacific island-nation is dubbed a "Happy Isle."
"After years of effort by the technical mission, people now are very kind to the Taiwanese in the Solomon Islands," Hsueh said.
The mission arrived in the capital, Honiara, in December 1983, nine months after Taiwan established diplomatic ties with the Solomon Islands.
One 50-year-old resident named Awnie told CNA that at the time when she was a student, she used to see big watermelons and pumpkins at the Taiwan booth in the Independence Day gala. There, Taiwanese people would invite passers-by to sample their fruit and vegetables, Awnie recalled.
She said she would visit the Taiwanese booth after school because the watermelon was very tasty. "They all wore hats with the word Taiwan on it. They were very kind," Awnie added, referring to the Taiwanese running the booth.
Four years ago, when Hsueh was transferred to the Solomon Islands after serving in technical missions in other Taiwanese allies for more than 20 years, he saw that a quarter of cabbage was sold for NT$200 (US$6.46) in a supermarket because the vegetable had to be imported from Australia.
His mission then began teaching local farmers how to grow cabbages, Hsueh said, so that now, the price for a locally grown cabbage is half or even one-third of an imported one.
"It's more affordable now," he said.
In addition to crops, the technical mission also successfully produced in 2015 a new breed of pigs, which was named "SolRoc No.1" by Solomon Islands Minister of Agriculture Augustine Auga.
Compared with the white pigs commonly raised in the island-nation, where most hog breeders in the countryside raise their animals on pasture, the SolRoc is more adaptable to the local environment, thanks to its heat-resistance and tolerance to bug bites, according to Hsueh.
At a Taiwan-run farm close to the Honiara airport, one of two farms run by the mission in the Solomon Islands, at least 20 kinds of vegetables, fruit, rice and other staple crops are grown for multiple use, including as lecture materials or to provide seedlings for local farmers, Huseh said.
All the crops harvested are donated for school lunches, he went on, while during summer and winter breaks, the crops are given free of charge to National Referral Hospital, the biggest hospital in Honiara.
The technical cooperation program has borne fruit and has helped establish a pattern of mutual interaction, Hsueh said.
While the private sector in the Solomon Islands is inclined to continue maintaining diplomatic ties with Taiwan and would like the Taiwanese mission to stay, "it is a pity the decision-makers are not common people," he said.
If formal Taipei-Honiara links are severed, "it will be a pity for both sides," he added.
The Solomon Islands, one of Taiwan's 17 diplomatic allies, has been assessing its relations with Taiwan since new Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare took office after a general election in April.
A Solomon Islands cross-party task force recently submitted a report to the Sogavare government, recommending that the nation sever its long-standing ties with Taiwan and switch diplomatic allegiance to China by mid-September, according to a copy of the report obtained by CNA Sept. 13.
The report said the establishment of ties between Honiara and Beijing would represent adherence to the "one China policy/principle" and that both countries could expect to strike up bilateral relations by exchanging embassies.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel